War on Terrorism

Sunday, August 29, 2010

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, August 27, 2010

Lysozyme can protect anthrax contamination in processed foods: study
"An antibacterial enzyme found in human tears and other body fluids could be applied to certain foods for protection against intentional contamination with anthrax [bacteria], scientists reported here today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). 'Data from this study could be used in developing safer foods for human consumption,' said Saeed A. Khan, Ph.D. 'The data from our study shows that lysozyme application has the potential to eliminate anthrax [caus]ing bacteria in processed foods.' Khan and colleagues knew from almost a century of lysozyme research that the enzyme kills certain bacteria. It does so by destroying bacteria cell walls, the rigid outer shell that provides a protective coating. Lysozyme was discovered in 1922 by Alexander Fleming during the search for antibiotics that eventually led to penicillin. A drop of mucus (which contains lysozyme) from Fleming's nose fell into a culture dish of bacteria. Much to his surprise, it killed the bacteria. Since then, scientists have shown that lysozyme has far-reaching roles in protecting against disease-causing microbes." (Medical News; 27Aug10) http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100827/Lysozyme-can-protect-anthrax-contamination-in-processed-foods-Study.aspx

Funding top of mind as [Rep. Betsy] Markey [D-CO] tours CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ] site [Fort Collins, CO]
"Robed up in a white disposable lab coat in a cramped high-containment laboratory packed with congressional staffers Monday, Ann Powers described to Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., how U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists at the agency's Fort Collins branch identify various mosquito-borne viruses from around the world. The CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases lab, or DVBD, on Colorado State University's Foothills Campus houses some 10,000 strains of insect-spread viruses from different countries and points in time, said Powers, a scientist in the CDC's Arboviral Disease Branch. With the $26.7 million needed to operate the lab still at risk of federal budget cuts, Markey toured the DVBD's labs and offices Monday afternoon to take a closer look at what might be lost if the lab's funding vanished. After the tour, she said it's imperative the lab maintain its current level of funding because the lab's disease-fighting and research capabilities are vital to national security and public health. The lab's funding is currently in limbo in Congress, where the Senate has all but secured the money in its budget-writing process, but the House has not yet taken up the matter, Markey said. 'I think it's likely' the lab's funding will be restored, she said. The Fort Collins lab serves as a backup to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta should it become the target of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, DVBD Director Lyle Petersen said." (The Coloradoan: Fort Collins, CO; 24Aug10; Bobby Magill)

Ebola drug breakthrough
"US scientists claim to have cleared a key hurdle in the quest to treat the African virus Ebola, a feared future bioterrorism weapon. A treatment administered to rhesus monkeys within an hour of being infected by the deadliest strain of Ebola was 60 per cent effective, and a companion drug was 100 per cent effective in shielding cynomolgus monkeys against Ebola's cousin, the Marburg virus, the scientists said. After studying the findings, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for trials on a small group of human volunteers, the scientists said yesterday. [...] The drugs are in a class of compound called PMO, for phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers. They are designed to hamper the virus's replication in cells, thus buying time for the immune system to mount a response and crush the invader. The research, appearing online in the journal, Nature Medicine, was conducted by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in collaboration with a biotech firm, AVI BioPharma. The Pentagon pumped funding into research for a vaccine and treatment for Ebola-type viruses in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror[ist] attacks on the US." (The Australian; 23Aug10)

U.S. biodefense effort to be revamped
"The U.S. Health and Human Services Department yesterday declared that a major program intended to prepare the country for a biological weapons attack would be overhauled with a focus toward decreasing the length of time it takes to produce new medical countermeasures, the Los Angeles Times reported. 'We aren't generating enough new products,' HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. She attributed the lengthy time it takes for medical discoveries to be turned into commercially available vaccines and treatments on 'leaks, choke points and dead ends.' The $1.9 billion program revamp is to include improvements to the countermeasure production process that could reduce by weeks the time required to manufacture flu vaccines as well as several changes to the process for identifying encouraging research and moving candidate drugs quickly through the medical development pipeline. As part of the overhaul, $678 million would be allocated to establish one or more private institutions that would collaborate with small firms on the production of new treatments, establishment of new production systems and manufacturing of vaccines during times of extreme demand. Another $822 million would go toward efforts to decrease the amount of time required to produce pandemic flu vaccines. The planned reforms appear to be a tacit admission by federal authorities that the $5.6 billion Project Bioshield has failed to adequately meet the goals of speeding along the development of treatments, vaccines and medical processes to be used in a potential bioterrorism or other WMD attack, according to the Times." (Global Security Newswire; 19Aug10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100820_7273.php

Russian depot destroys 5,300 metric tons of nerve agent
"A Russian chemical weapons disposal plant has eliminated more than 5,300 metric tons of the nerve agent sarin in the last two years, ITAR-Tass reported yesterday. Disposal of soman nerve agent stored at the chemical depot near the village of Leonidovka is set to start next month. Plans are still being developed for building a structure where particularly complicated chemical munitions can be safely disarmed. The Leonidovka installation held roughly 17 percent of Russia's chemical weapons, originally totaling 6,886 metric tons of warfare materials. The stockpile is scheduled to be eliminated by May 2012, one month past the deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention." (Global Security Newswire; 25Aug10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100825_6236.php

Bioreactors arrive at depot for installation [Pueblo, CO]
"A major component of the Pueblo Chemical Depot's high-tech wastewater treatment facility is being installed this week, a part of the program that almost passed Pueblo by. Bechtel, the lead contractor for the program to destroy the depot's stockpile of 780,000 mustard agent weapons, is taking delivery of 16 Immobilized Cell Bioreactors [ICB]. When weapons destruction gets under way, almost five years from now, the boxcar-sized units will house bacteria that will break down the mustard agent components created when the weapons are flushed out with hot water and the agent neutralized. The primary ingredient of the wastewater, also called agent hydrolysate, is thiodiglycol, a hazardous substance. Under the international treaty requiring the destruction of chemical weapons, it also has to be eliminated in the demilitarization process. The ICB units will act in a way similar to municipal wastewater treatment ponds where bacteria is used to break down sewage, only these devices will be a lot more complicated. A system of baffles inside the units provides a large surface area for the bacteria to grow on, eating the thiodiglycol and turning it into salts." (Pueblo Chieftain; 26Aug10; John Norton) http://www.chieftain.com/news/local/article_9563ba56-b0d7-11df-b31f-001cc4c002e0.html

Pont-Saint-Esprit poisoning: did the CIA spread LSD?
"Nearly 60 years ago, a French town was hit by a sudden outbreak of hallucinations, which left five people dead and many seriously ill. For years it was blamed on bread contaminated with a psychedelic fungus - but that theory is now being challenged. [...] That view remained largely unchallenged until 2009, when an American investigative journalist, Hank Albarelli, revealed a CIA document labelled: 'Re: Pont-Saint-Esprit and F.Olson Files. SO Span/France Operation file, inclusive Olson. Intel files. Hand carry to Belin - tell him to see to it that these are buried.' F. Olson is Frank Olson, a CIA scientist who, at the time of the Pont St Esprit incident, led research for the agency into the drug LSD. David Belin, meanwhile, was executive director of the Rockefeller Commission created by the White House in 1975 to investigate abuses carried out worldwide by the CIA. Albarelli believes the Pont-Saint-Esprit and F. Olson Files, mentioned in the document, would show - if they had not been 'buried' - that the CIA was experimenting on the townspeople, by dosing them with LSD. The conclusion drawn at the time was that one of the town's bakeries, the Roch Briand, was the source of the poisoning. It's possible, Albarelli says, that LSD was put in the bread. [...] But American academic Professor Steven Kaplan, who published a book in 2008 on the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident, insists that neither ergot nor LSD could have been responsible. Ergot contamination would not, he says, have affected only one sack of grain in one bakery, as was claimed here. The outbreak would have been far more widespread. He rules out LSD on the grounds that the symptoms people suffered, though similar, do not quite fit the drug." (British Broadcasting Corporation; 22Aug10; Mike Thomson)

Schoolgirls and teachers sick from poison gas in Afghanistan
"Dozens of schoolgirls and teachers were sickened Wednesday by poison gas in Afghanistan, medical and government officials said. The latest incident, this one at a high school, is the ninth such case involving the poisoning of schoolgirls, said Asif Nang, spokesman for the nation's education ministry. Dr. Kabir Amiri said 59 students and 14 teachers were brought to the hospital, and were faring better. 'We don't have good equipment to verify the kind of gas that they were poisoned with, but we have taken their blood tests to send to Turkmenistan for verifying the type of gas' that was used, Amiri said. [...] But female educational facilities, students and teachers have come under vicious attack as the insurgency has strengthened and spread from Taliban strongholds in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand." (Cable News Network; 25Aug10) http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/08/25/afghanistan.girls.sick/

Chemical warfare manual to be published
"The IDF [Israeli Defense Force] Medical Corps is set to distribute an instructional booklet about treating wounds resulting from chemical warfare substances to IDF combat and medical personnel. The booklet features new information on the subject, detailing the types of chemicals used and the damage they can cause, ways to treat chemical wounds, the readiness of troops for a chemical warfare attack, and what this threat means to the IDF. The booklet, which the Medical Corps spent over a year working on, is a revised edition of the 1998 version. Besides including updated and more comprehensive information, the booklet is published and printed in a compact, easy-to-carry format. 'This instructional booklet is the bible for medical crews having to deal with chemical warfare. We are currently starting to distribute it, with the goal of handing out a few hundred copies,' says head of the Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare branch in the Medical Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Ram Sagi. All IDF medical crews take chemical warfare courses during their service training, and maintain their readiness for such attacks through exercise drills. The Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare branch of the Medical Corps develops these drills, simulating scenarios on robotic simulator dolls. Members of the branch even arrive on field and are integrated into exercise drills in order to guide the medical crew trainees and ultimately test their knowledge and implementation of the material." (Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson; 26Aug10) http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/10/08/2601.htm

Predicting the future: chemical warfare
"Col. Ari Hoze, Head of the Center for Atomic, Biological and Chemical Warfare (ABCW), anticipates that the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) current emphasis on ABCW preparedness will continue to grow. This year, the soldiers of the ABCW Unit who serve under Col. Hoze were designated in advance to be enlisted in the unit, and the length of their specialized training has been extended from 5 to 8 months. [...] 'The idea is that the Battalion will be part of a training force, with constant cooperation between them. The Battalion will enable other forces to continue their combat operations despite an ongoing ABC attack. It will evacuate, decontaminate, and protect the forces. The Battalion knows how to detect and identify chemical warfare materials, and will help soldiers to decontaminate and return to the field. We are also strengthening the professional identity of the Battalion soldiers so that they will understand the need and the importance of their work.' [Col. Hoze said]." (Defence Professionals; 23Aug10) http://www.defpro.com/news/details/17742/

Simulated disaster fills Noble Hospital with dying mannequins [Fort McClellan, AL]
"Inside the emergency room, the lights go dark and voices shriek as the beeping of computer that monitor patient breathing, heartbeats and sugar levels fall ominously silent. Outside the hospital doors, emergency responders in hazmat suits hose off the peeling skin and bloody wounds of screaming victims suffering from chemical burns. And in a conference room, public information officers, financial and medical leaders talk on phones and send e-mails from laptops, setting up conferences to mitigate a growing sense of panic within and outside hospital walls. All of these scenes are, of course, practice exercises at the Noble Training Hospital in Fort McClellan, but to those who participate in them – and the media personnel watching Wednesday afternoon – it feels like real life. 'It's quite overwhelming,' said Lanney Campbell, an emergency room physician from Idaho. Like the several dozen other healthcare professionals, he's lived with at the Noble Training Facility's dormitories since Monday, Campbell is enrolled in a Center for Domestic Preparedness healthcare course. The CDP medical training program started 11 years ago, and the courses are designed to test emergency medical response skills in the face of natural, manmade and terrorism disasters. Funded by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and free for healthcare professionals who wish to participate, the weeklong courses include classroom lectures followed by realistic disaster simulations staged at the old Noble Army Hospital." (Anniston Star; 26Aug10; Cameron Steele) http://www.annistonstar.com/view/full_story/9280169/article-Simulated-disaster-fills-Noble-Hospital-with-dying-mannequins

Smuggled uranium-238 seized in Moldova [Chisinau]
"Moldovan police have seized 1.8kg of uranium-238 in the capital, Chisinau, officials say. Three members of the group, which included former police officers, were arrested, they said. The smugglers had reportedly been trying to sell the material on the European black market for 9m euros (£7.4m). [...] Uranium-238 is the most commonly found, naturally occurring form of the substance. The type needed for nuclear fuel and weapons is the less common uranium-235. The Moldovan haul was found in a garage in Chisinau, where it was under guard and in a special container, said interior ministry spokesman Chiril Motpan. He said there were seven suspects, some of whom had previous convictions for possessing radioactive materials in Moldova, Russia and Romania." (British Broadcasting Corporation; 24Aug10)

U.S., Mongolia participate in radiological security response exercise
"The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Mongolian Nuclear Energy Agency (MNEA) today announced the completion of a successful exercise that helped train Mongolian regulatory, law enforcement and other officials how to respond in the case of a terrorist attack at a facility that houses nuclear or radiological material. The exercise, which simulated three terrorist attack scenarios, took place over four days at MNEA headquarters in Ulaanbaatar. The purpose of the response exercises is to gauge a site's preparedness for an armed attack, improve response plans and procedures and bring different response groups into the same room to analyze their roles in the response effort. The training was part of NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which works to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites around the world. In addition to the training exercise, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative has worked with Mongolia to upgrade physical security at two radiological sites. 'Our partnership with Mongolia is part of NNSA's worldwide mission to prevent nuclear and radiological material from falling into the hands of terrorists,' said Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. 'Working collaboratively with our counterparts around the globe allows us to join forces in the international fight against illicit trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.' NNSA's partnership with Mongolia also includes a 2007 memorandum of understanding that has led to the outfitting of 10 border crossings, with four more planned or in progress, with radiation detection equipment, designed to detect illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials." (National Nuclear Security Administration; 26Aug10) http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/mongolia082610

Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] says it mishandled nuclear material [Washington, D.C.]
"The military's flagship hospital has acknowledged it mishandled two packages of radioactive material in May, possibly exposing staff and patients to elevated radiation levels. Spokesman Chuck Dasey said Thursday that Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington doesn't dispute the allegations made by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission said the packages sat beneath a lobby counter for nearly two days after they were delivered. Dasey says the hospital has since reinforced its nuclear medicine safety program and retrained staff on the proper handling of radioactive material. The packages contained radioactive material used to treat and diagnose ailments such as cancer and heart disease. NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said no harm has been reported from the incident." (Associated Press; 26Aug10) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gD-1JLz8ReVQmLR-FJSqsXcGS6_gD9HRCC480

URMC [University of Rochester Medical Center] gets $15m to study homspera as a radiation-induced injury countermeasure [Rochester, NY]
"University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has obtained a $15 million five-year grant from the NIAID to investigate ImmuneRegen BioSciences' Homspera in various radiation-induced injury settings. Research will expand on studies already being performed at URMC evaluating the efficacy of this adult stem cell product in mitigating lung injury induced by radiation exposure. Research under the NIAID funding will be divided into four projects, each covering a specific organ system that is particularly susceptible to radiation: lung, brain, skin, and blood. Rochester researchers believe that cancer patients will also benefit from the award as they uncover new information about how to protect blood vessels and bone marrow from injury due to radiation therapy. The NIAID award is a continuation of a 2005 grant totaling $24 million under which URMC became part of a national research network called the Centers for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation. The centers were charged with researching how best to respond to a possible dirty bomb or other radiological or nuclear attack. This new award will allow URMC researchers to focus on testing known drugs and experimental agents like Homspera for use as a radiation-induced injury medical countermeasure." (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News; 25Aug10) http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/urmc-gets-15m-to-study-homspera-as-a-radiation-induced-injury-countermeasure/81243836/

NIH [National Institutes of Health] renews research for countering nuclear threats
"The National Institutes of Health has announced it will renew a major research effort to develop medical devices for diagnosing, preventing and treating victims of a radiological or nuclear terrorist attack. The research will be conducted through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Centers for Countermeasures Against Radiation, known as the CMCR program. CMCR was established in 2006 to fund 130 pilot studies to develop methods and tools to measure radiation exposure and evaluate potential drugs to treat radiation injuries. Under the renewed program, announced last Thursday, NIH expects to invest $105 million to support research at seven institutions from 2010 to 2015. One of those is at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., where researchers will devise methods for determining physical and chemical changes in teeth, hair and fingernails resulting from radiation exposure, which could be used to develop noninvasive diagnostic tools." (Government Executive; 24Aug10; Katherine Mcintire Peters) http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0810/082410kp1.htm

Former soviet states flush with "dirty bomb" materials
"The bust last month of an alleged would-be uranium smuggling ring demonstrates how widespread and vulnerable to theft radioactive materials are in the former Soviet Union, Agence France-Presse reported today. 'Hundreds of thousands of [metric] tons of uranium lie in storage at industrial sites, one can take bagfuls of them,' Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said. 'There are people who try to sell them at a high price and most often they fall into the hands of security services.' [...] The seized material 'could be used to make a dirty bomb that could cause contamination and panic,' Russian military specialist Alexander Golts said." (Global Security Newswire; 27Aug10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100827_5433.php

Castor bean genome may help prevent potential bioterrorism events
"A research team co-led by scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), University of Maryland School of Medicine, today published the sequence and analysis of the castor bean (Ricinus communis) genome in Nature Biotechnology. Agnes P. Chan, Ph.D., JCVI, and Jonathan Crabtree, Ph.D., IGS were co-lead authors on the paper describing the 4.5X coverage of this important oilseed crop. The availability of the castor bean genome also has important biodefense implications since the plant produces the powerful toxin, ricin." (News-medical.net; 22Aug10) http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100823/Castor-bean-genome-may-help-prevent-potential-bioterrorism-events.aspx

Aussie students assigned to plan terrorist attack [Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia]
"A high school teacher who assigned her class to plan a terrorist attack that would kill as many innocent Australians as possible had no intent to promote terrorism, education officials said Wednesday. The Year 10 students at Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School in the state of Western Australia were given the assignment last week in a class on contemporary conflict and terrorism. Principal Terry Martino said he withdrew the assignment as soon as he heard of it. But after news of the assignment was published in Wednesday's West Australian newspaper, talk radio and online forums began a busy debate and some survivors of terror attacks across Australia -- which has been a target of terror campaigns at home and abroad -- came forward to express their outrage. [...] The students were asked to pretend they were terrorists making a political statement by releasing a chemical or biological agent on 'an unsuspecting Australian community,' according to a copy of the assignment received by the West Australian newspaper. The task included choosing the best time to attack and explaining their choice of victims and what effects the attack would have on a human body." (Time; 25Aug10; Tanalee Smith) http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2013226,00.html

War demands compromise hunt for deadliest weapons, top U.S. commander says
"The effort to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists has been slowed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the head of U.S. special forces. Fewer elite commandos are available for the hunt and their expertise has been degraded by 'the decreased level of training,' Admiral Eric Olson said. They now have only a 'limited' capability for this mission, he said. Meanwhile, the threat of extremists acquiring and using chemical, biological or nuclear arms 'is greater now than at any other time in history,' Olson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written response to a question posed by lawmakers after a March 16 hearing on his command's budget. [...] Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in his fiscal 2011-2015 budget, shifted a total of $147 million to accelerate fielding new technology for these elite commandos. In his unreleased guidance, Gates cited the need to 'fully fund' technologies for disposing of explosive ordnance, destroying 'ultra-high performance' concrete that might shelter WMD production or storage sites and disabling 'control systems' for 'state-run weapons production facilities.' The proposed budget for the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency that develops these capabilities increases to $113 million in 2015 from $61.3 million in fiscal 2010. [...] Gates's guidance 'appears intended to give' the commando command 'additional capabilities at all levels' of threats, from improvised roadside bombs containing chemical or biological weaponry to sites operated by terrorist groups,' said Congressional Research Service analyst Ken Katzman." (Bloomberg; 26Aug10; Tony Capaccio) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-26/top-u-s-commando-says-war-demands-compromising-hunt-for-deadliest-weapons.html

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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