(A weekly digest from the internet on chemical and biological warfare issues. Emphasis is on incidents and perspectives, but inclusion of an item does not equal endorsement or agreement with the contents. This first issue covers items collected between 1–20 February 2017.)
- BWC Newsletter (February 2017): The BTWC Implementation Support Unit published the first issue of its periodic newsletter.
- Bioterrorism poses catastrophic threat to U.S. agriculture (Homeland Security Newswire, 30 January 2017): Members of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense consider the threat of terrorism with BW against the US agricultural sector as a major threat.
- Congress needs to act now to prevent another biodisaster like anthrax, Zika (Jeff Schlegelmilch; Ellen P. Carlin, 30 January 2017): Opinion piece on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a critical provision that implements a major recommendation of the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, namely the development of a strategy and implementation plan for national biodefense.
- Synbio and Biosecurity (Devang Mehta, 5 February 2017): Discussion about the evolution of the debate on the threats posed by synthetic biology over the past 15 years.
- Bioterrorism could kill more people than nuclear war, Bill Gates to warn world leaders (Ben Farmer, 18 February 2017): Interview with Bill Gates ahead of his presentation to the Munich Security Conference.
- A new kind of terrorism could wipe out 30 million people in less than a year — and we are not prepared (Bill Gates, 18 February 2017): Op-Ed by Bill Gates on the threat of a pandemic outbreak following terrorist use of a genetically engineerd BW and the need to invest in innovative vaccine strategies.
- Bill Gates: Bioterrorism could kill more than nuclear war — but no one is ready to deal with it (Avi Selk, 18 February 2017): Report on Bill Gates’ speech to the Munich Security Conference, focussing on the threat of terrorism with BW.
- Iran assumes presidency of OPCW Asian branch (MNA, 7 February 2017): Iran was unanimously elected to head the Asian group in the OPCW decision-making bodies.
- Presidential envoy says chemical weapons disposal in Russia ahead of schedule (TASS, 17 February 2017): The chemical weapons disposal at the Kizner facility in Russia’s Republic of Udmurtia is ahead of schedule. CW destruction operations are now expected to be completed by 2018, to be followed by 5-6 years of clean-up activities.
Chemical warfare in Iraq
- IS made sulphur weapons in Mosul university: Pentagon (AFP, 8 February 2017): Tests have confirmed that the ISIL was making rudimentary chemical weapons at the University of Mosul.
Chemical warfare in Syria
- IDF to Northern Residents: Sealed Rooms, Not Gas Masks, Best Defense During Chemical Attack (Gili Cohen, 31 January 2017): The Israeli military believes that the best protection against possible CW attacks in the north of the country are sealed rooms rather than doning gas masks.
- OPCW’s Chemical Weapons Probes in Syria, Iraq Inefficient – Russian FM (Sputnik, 8 February 2017): Mikhail Uliyanov, Head of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control of the Russian Foreign Ministry, expressed his disappointment in the OPCW’s investigation of CW use in Syria and Iraq last year.
- Syria: Coordinated Chemical Attacks on Aleppo (HRW, 13 February 2017): Online report by Human Rights Watch alleging that Syrian government forces conducted coordinated chemical attacks in opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo during the final month of the battle for the city. According to the report, the pattern of the chlorine attacks showed that the attacks were coordinated with the overall military strategy for retaking Aleppo and were not the work of a few rogue elements.
- Syria Used Chlorine Bombs Systematically in Aleppo, Report Says (Rick Gladstone, 13 February 2017): A just released Human Rights Watch report suggests that Syrian officials not only disregarded the United Nations findings but decided to use chlorine bombs far more aggressively in the Aleppo campaign last autumn.
- Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in Aleppo: rights group (Anthony Deutsch, 13 February 2017): Reporting from Amsterdam, Reuters added that the OPCW had no comment on the HRW report.
- Human Rights Watch damages reputation with report on chemical weapons in Syria — ministry (TASS, 14 February 2017): Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov dismissed the allegations made by Human Rights Watch and complained about the OPCW’s slowness in investigating evidence of earlier CW attacks collected by Russia’s Center of Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection and Syrians.
- Syria denies HRW report on using chemical weapons (Xinhua, 16 February 2017): Syria’s Foreign Ministry denied the allegations, adding that the HRW report serves foreign agendas and seeks to affect the upcoming intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.
- Russia Denies French Accusation vs. Syria for Using Chemical Weapon (Prensa Latina, 16 February 2017): Russia rejected the accusation made by France against the Syrian government for the alleged use of chemical weapons. France’s initiative for action in the UNSC came prior to the beginning of a second round of peace talks involving representatives from the Syrian government and insurgent factions in Astana, Kazakhstan.
- UN-OPCW panel seeks names of Syrian commanders in gas attacks probe (AFP, 17 February 2017): The UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) is reportedly seeking the names of specific Syrian Arab Armed Forces units and any entity outside the Armed Forces listed on flight plans. Its report added that the Syrian government has ignored the request.
- Iran’s Zarif says use of chemical weapons in Syria cannot be condoned (Reuters, 19 February 2017): Iranian Foreign Minister accuses al-Nusra Front and ISIL of possessing and using CW in Syria’s civil war during a speech at the Munich Security Conference. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth, also participating in the event, expects the UN Security Council to take up allegations of government use of chlorine during the battle for Alleppo last autumn.
Victims of chemical warfare
- Japanese scholar’s studies on Iranians injured by chemical weapons published in Persian (Tehran Times, 13 February 2017): Presentation of the Farsi translation of the book entitled With Iranians Injured by Chemical Weapons by Shizuko Tsuya who studied Iranian victims of chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq War for 13 years.
Riot control and incapacitating agents
- The US Army Had Big Plans For Dealing With Riots In The 1960s (Joseph Trevithick, 10 February 2017): Based on requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the author describes how in the 1960s the US military planned to handle mobs with specialized tools such as helicopters and flamethrowers modified to spread tear gas. (Link to training circular included.)
- Officials say Hamburg airport scare was likely pepper spray (Washington Post, 12 February 2017): Passengers at Hamburg Airport were evacuated and more than a dozen flights canceled after some 68 people were injured by a hazardous material that likely spread through the airport’s air conditioning system.
- China’s Ban of a Deadly Tranquilizer Could Be a ‘Game Changer’ in North America’s Opioid Epidemic (Erika Kinetz, 16 February 2017): China is adding the deadly elephant tranquilizer carfentanil and three related synthetic opioids to its list of controlled substances effective March 1.
- Demands for inquiry in poison death of Yemeni journalist (AP, 6 February 2017): Yemeni journalist Mohammed al-Absi was poisoned at the end of 2016 and demands for an investigation are growing.
- Putin critic Kara-Murza suffered ‘acute poisoning’ (AFP, 7 February 2017): Russian opposition politician in a coma with organ failure suffered “acute poisoning” by an unknown substance, according to his wife Yevgeniya Kara-Murza.
- Kim Jong Un’s brother dies in suspected assassination in Malaysia (Bryan Harris, Jeevan Vasagar, and Demetri Sevastopulo, 14 February 2017): Kim Jong Nam, the estranged older half-brother of North Korea’s leader, was killed in an attack at Kuala Lumpur airport following an assault by a woman who covered his face with a cloth laced with liquid as he was waiting for a flight to Macau.
- Finding poison in N. Korea attack may be hardest part (Margie Mason, 18 February 2017): The investigation into the substance used in the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the older half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, begins.
- ‘Poisoned’ critic Vladimir Kara-Murza leaves Russia for treatment (BBC, 19 February 2017): Kara-Murza leaves Russia for rehabilitation.
- When Scientific Advances Can Both Help and Hurt Humanity (Nicholas G. Evans and Aerin Commins, 3 February 2017): Scientific research in the life sciences can change our lives for the better, but it also presents risks – either through deliberate misuse or accident.
- International training session on Emergency Response to Chemical Incidents begins in Sri Lanka (ColomboPage, 6 February 2017): The course provided training for up to 20 participants in planning and building a support team for civil protection, civil defense, and decontamination operations in contaminated areas, as well as in appropriate responses and countermeasures in the event of incidents involving chemical warfare agents or toxic industrial chemicals.
- All Russia prepares for NBC Incident (David Oliver, 6 February 2017): Report on a Russian civil defense exercise in October of last year involving federal and regional executive authorities, local governments and organizations titled ‘Organization of civil defense during large natural and man-caused disasters in the Russian Federation’. It was organised by the Russian Federation Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM). More than 40 million people in major cities, 200,000 emergency rescue specialists and some 50,000 rescue vehicles and equipment took part in the exercise.
- Sri Lanka achieves Hague’s Chemical Convention milestone (Lanka News Web, 7 February 2017): On the 10th anniversary of becoming a state party to the CWC, Sri Lanka held a training session on emergency response to a chemical incident in collaboration with the OPCW.
- F-35 Pilots Dress For Chemical and Biological Warfare For The First Time (Tyler Rogoway, 7 February 2017): The US Air Force provided details of the CB protective suits to be warn by pilots of the new F-34 combat plane.
- Ricin poisoning may one day be treatable with new antidote (Meghan Rosen, 10 February 2017): A study presented at the American Society for Microbiology’s Biothreats meeting on 7 February reveals a ricin antidote that works even days after exposure to the toxinin mice.
- Army CBRN Response Squadron contributes to Course on Chemical Incidents (Department of Government Information, 11 February 2017): Members of the Sri Lankan Army Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Response Squadron took part as resource personnel in the Basic Training Course on Emergency Response at Chemical Incidents.
- International Collaborations to Defend against Biological Weapons: The UK/US Experience (Zach Goble, 16 February 2017): Report from the ASM Biothreats 2017 conference, focussing on preparedness to defend against BW.
- Emergent BioSolutions receives German approval for major manufacturing of BioThrax anthrax vaccine (Homeland Preparedness News, 31 January 2017): Emergent BioSolutions Inc. recently received approval by a regulatory agency under the German Federal Ministry of Health for its large-scale manufacturing facility in Michigan, paving the way for the company to market its anthrax vaccine BioThrax in Germany and other countries.
- Biodefense Market: Asia Pacific is Expected to Emerge as a Significant Market for Biodefense due to the Increasing Adoption of Precise Analytical Instruments (Transparency Market Research, Press release, 3 February 2017): The global biodefense market is displaying growth due to the increasing importance for disease surveillance mission to combat bioterrorism. The recent Ebola outbreak and nuclear crisis in Japan are anticipated to have a positive impact on the growth of the biodefense market, according to the press release.
- The Biotech Sector is Beginning to Breakout in India (Sandeep Soni, 18 February 2017): Biopharma has been the biggest sub sector of the biotech sector in India over the past year, but still requires greater private sector participation.
- Immigrants’ health (Betty N. Harp, 19 February 2017): Reader’s letter calling for restricting immigration into the US based on the applicants’ vaccination status. The call includes vaccination against smallpox.