Crowd control with chemical agents: Fundamental questions raised

Book review

Michael Crowley, Chemical Control: Regulation of Incapacitating Chemical Agent Weapons, Riot Control Agents and their Means of Delivery (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, 2015), 378p.

Crowd control-sAnybody who has attended one of Michael Crowley’s annual presentations at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the challenges posed by riot control and incapacitating agents for the future of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) knows his passion for the subject matter. And his overwhelming knowledge about the latest developments in science, technology, industry and government policies. These characteristics also typify his book on the topic, Chemical Control, published late last year.

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Nuclear Terrorism – Book published

Nuclear Terrorism: Countering the Threat

Edited by Brecht Volders and Tom Sauer

Routledge, 262 pages

About the Book

This volume aims to improve understanding of nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism.nuclear terrorism

Nuclear terrorism is perceived as one of the most immediate and extreme threats to global security today. While the international community has made important progress in securing fissile material, there are still important steps to be made with nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear material spread around the globe. The volume addresses this complex phenomenon through an interdisciplinary approach: legal, criminal, technical, diplomatic, cultural, economic, and political. Despite this cross-disciplinary approach, however, the chapters are all linked by the overarching aim of enhancing knowledge of nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism. The volume aims to do this by investigating the different types of nuclear terrorism, and subsequently discussing the potential means to prevent these malicious acts. In addition, there is a discussion of the nuclear security regime, in general, and an important examination of both its strengths and weaknesses. In summary, the book aims to extend the societal and political debate about the threat of nuclear terrorism.

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Am I an academic?

My good friend Sven Biscop at Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels wrote this witty piece last year. I have just rediscovered it while clearing out old e-mails. It reminds me of teaching experiences; debates on research versus analysis; inventing labels to prove originality, but which are clear only to the inventor; and my eternal frustration about certain uses of footnotes (from legalised plagiarism to citing friends or renowned academics, because it is the thing to do) that just add nothing to the train of argument. With Sven’s permission, I reproduce his thought piece here.

I know: it is not about disarmament or chemical and biological weapons. But it has an enormous lot to do with the field I work in. Self-reflection is good.

Jean Pascal

Am I an academic?

‘We have invited think-tankers and academics’. This sentence, often spoken by conference organisers, never fails to annoy me. Certainly if in the next sentence gratitude is then expressed for the think-tankers’ willingness to convey the academics’ ideas to policy-makers. Read: nothing very substantial is expected from the think-tankers themselves. Their job is just to translate academic brilliance into terms that even practitioners, who apparently are even lower in the academics’ esteem, can understand.

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No humanitarian justification for biological weapons

On 11 January Digital Journal, an online publication touching upon current events and with a penchant for science and technology affairs, published an Op-Ed by Megan Hamilton, an animal and nature-loving journalist based in Costa Rica, on Technology and the art of modern warfare. The piece is worrying enough for all the new technologies under consideration: fast-firing guns that could be deployed on satellites, direction-changing bullets, laser guns to knock out enemy drones, and so on.

The item that caught my attention was a discussion about a project once run by US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that turned insects into surveillance cyborgs (See also the Gizmodo blog). As Hamilton described it:

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Chemical weapons in Syria: The reports 2013–16

Chemical weapon disarmament in Syria

Monthly reports

[In preparation]

Assessment

Investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons

Investigations under the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism

Investigations by the OPCW Fact-Finding MIssion

Summary report of the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria covering the period from 3 to 31 May 2014 (16 June 2014) Second report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria: Key findings (10 September 2014) Third report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria

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Syrian soldiers exposed to ‘sarin or a sarin-like substance’

In November I presented the main findings of the preliminary Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) report of 29 October. This particular investigation of alleged use by the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had been requested by Syria. Government officials had transmitted four Notes Verbales alleging  26 chemical weapon (CW) events resulting in 432 casualties. The preliminary report focussed primarily on incidents at Jobar (northeast of Damascus) on 29 August 2014. While the investigators believed that government soldiers had been exposed to an irritant, they could not confirm that the chemical had been used as a weapon. They as good as ruled out chlorine or a neurotoxicant, such as sarin, as the causative agent.

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Understanding the Dutch export licence requirement for publishing life science research

During the Meeting of Experts of states parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) last August, the Netherlands organised or co-hosted three side events relating to safeguarding the life sciences. A significant incident, in which the Dutch virologist Ron Fouchier and his team were required to obtain an export licence to publish their research on how they had mutated H5N1 into an aerosol-transmissible avian influenza virus variant, undeniably informed the need to clarify national policies and approaches to biorisk management. A month earlier the Appellate Court had annulled the ruling by a lower court in support of the government position on procedural grounds. Does this annulment validate the Dutch government’s position or does it imply that the whole debate about the publication of so-called dual-use research in the life sciences is back to square one? Moreover, in the meantime the debate had evolved from a terrorist proliferation risk to one of health security in which the ethics and utility of this type of gain-of-function research stand central. In other words, do biosafety worries warrant biosecurity policy measures, such as the imposition of non-proliferation export controls?

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Why stopping acid attacks is a matter of chemical weapons control

By Brett Edwards, James Revill, and Valentina Cartei

December 2, 2015 11.13am GMT

Republished from The Conversation

The use of acid as part of violent crime is apparently on the rise in the UK, and various efforts are being made to reverse what’s become a very disturbing trend

The Daily Express has started a campaign to “end the evil of acid attacks”, hot on the heels of a similar initiative by The Sun. Both campaigns focus on restricting access to the types of acid most commonly used in such attacks. The Express has launched a petition demanding that “the sale of any acid which could be used as a weapon be properly licensed”.

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