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Blog posts of '2009' 'March'

ADVNT'S BIOTERROR SCREENING DEVICES WOULD SAVE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS EVERY YEAR

Cost of bioterror false alarms, anthrax hoaxes rises

Published 11 March 2009

The U.S. government has spent more than $50 billion since the 2001 anthrax attacks to beef up U.S. defenses against biological attacks; there has not been another attack so far, but the cost of hoaxes and false alarms is rising steeply

In the seven years since the fall 2001 anthrax attacks alleged to have been carried out by Bruce Ivins (see “Scientists Reveal How Culprit in 2001 Anthrax Attacks Was Found, 27 February 2009 HS Daily Wire), U.S. government agencies have spent more than $50 billion to beef up biological defenses.

Seattle Times‘s Bob Drogin writes that no other anthrax attacks have occurred, but a flood of hoaxes and false alarms have raised the cost considerably through lost work, evacuations, decontamination efforts, first responders’ time, and the emotional distress of the victims.

This, experts say, is often the hoaxsters’ goal. “It’s easy, it’s cheap and very few perpetrators get caught,” said Leonard Cole, a political scientist at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, who studies bioterrorism. “People do it for a sense of power.” Among the recent targets:

  • Nearly all 50 governors’ offices
  • About 100 U.S. embassies
  • 52 banks
  • Ticket booths at Disneyland
  • Mormon temples in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles
  • Town halls in Batavia, Ohio, and Ellenville, New York
  • A funeral home and a day-care center in Ocala, Florida
  • A sheriff’s office in Eagle, Colorado
  • Homes in Ely River, New Mexico

The FBI has investigated about 1,000 such “white-powder events” as possible terrorist threats since the start of 2007, spokesman Richard Kolko said. The bureau responds if a letter contains a written threat or is mailed to a federal official. In one recent case, emergency crews cleared and sealed a DHS office in Washington, D.C., after a senior official, who had received a package at home containing white powder and a dead fish, brought it to work for inspection. The contents proved harmless, a spokeswoman said.

Drogin writes that the FBI is trying to figure out who mailed about 150 letters late last year that contained powder and threatening notes. The envelopes were sent from the Dallas area to U.S. embassies abroad and most governors. One letter was addressed to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who left office two years ago. When it arrived in Boston, someone marked “return to sender” on the envelope and popped it back in the mail. The return address was the FBI office in El Paso, Texas.

White powder spilled out when an FBI clerk there opened it on 12 February. Officials emptied the Federal Justice Center, sending more than 300 FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and other law-enforcement personnel home. The powder was baking soda, said Mark White, an FBI spokesman in Dallas.

The Justice Department was able to bring criminal charges in two other high-profile cases. Richard Goyette, 47, pleaded not guilty last Thursday in Amarillo, Texas, to charges of mailing 65 threatening letters to banks and other financial institutions in October. The envelopes contained white powder and a warning the recipient would die within ten days. In the second case, a federal grand jury in Sacramento, California, indicted Marc Keyser, 66, in November for allegedly mailing 120 hoax letters to newspapers, a member of Congress, a McDonald’s, a Starbucks and other targets.

In the past two fiscal years, records show, U.S. postal inspectors responded to more than 5,800 reports of letters and packages containing suspicious substances. Only a few-dozen cases have resulted in arrests.

Drogin notes that scientists disagree over whether the nation is more vulnerable to an anthrax attack today than it was in 2001. The U.S. Postal Service in 2003 installed devices to check for airborne pathogens or poisons at the nation’s 271 mail-processing and distribution centers. They have yet to detect a threat, said Peter Rendina, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Some experts fear that the boom in biodefense spending carries a danger. They worry that a tenfold increase in laboratories authorized to work with dangerous bio-agents increases the risk of leaks. The current figures:

  • There are 14 BSL-4 labs in the United States (6 already in operation; 3 completed but not yet operational; 5 under construction)
  • 15,000 U.S. scientists are authorized to work with deadly pathogens
  • More than 7,200 scientists are approved to work with anthrax

These critics say that by vastly increasing the number of researchers and labs authorized to handle deadly substances, the government has made the United States more vulnerable to bioterror attacks (see “Anti-bioterror Programs May Make U.S. More Vulnerable,” 14 November 2008 HS Daily Wire).

Let’s face the fact that the threat of biological attack is now a part of everyday life in America, so why not be prepared to quickly identify credible threats from the hoax. We at AdVnt believe it just makes credible sense to be prepared today.

ADVNT'S PATENTED BIOWEAPONS DETECTION TECHNOLOGY "PROSTRIPS" IS REGARDED AS "BEST IN THE WORLD"

LOS ANGELES, CA – Universal Detection Technology (OTCBB: UNDT), a developer of early-warning monitoring technologies to protect people from bioterrorism and other infectious health threats and provider of counter-terrorism consulting and training services, announced today that through its deal with US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service, it is promoting the Company’s handheld assays, used for detection of up to five bioterrorism agents. UNDT is listed as a Featured US Exporter on Commercial Service’s Iraq website. UNDT’s 5-agent Bioterrorism detection kits have been extensively used by first responders and private industry throughout the United States. Testing of the kits by the U.S. DOD as well as the United Kingdom military show that the kits demonstrate no cross-reactivity with near neighbor species and no false positives with commonly encountered “white powders.” The kits are designed to test for anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ricin, plague (Y. Pestis) and SEBs in as little as 3 minutes.

According to Universal Detection Technology, terrorists have used WMDs in the course of the Iraqi insurgency, in particular the use of chlorine gas on the civilian population. It is quite conceivable for the insurgents to utilize toxins such as botulinum or ricin to terrorize the population or disrupt key government ministries in Baghdad.

“We are pleased to make our equipment available on the Iraqi website of the US Commercial Service as we grow our presence in the Middle East,” said Mr. Jacques Tizabi, UNDT’s Chairman and CEO.

We at AdVnt are pleased to have UDT represent our “flagship” product in such an enthusiastic manner.

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THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPON "PLAGUE" (Y. PESTIS) KILLS 40 AL-QAEDIANS

40 al-Qaeda terrorists dead after failed experiment with plague weapon

Published 22 January 2009

40 al-Qaeda members died after being exposed to the plague during a biological weapons test; test took place in cave hideouts in Tizi Ouzou province, 150 kilometres east of the Algerian capital Algiers.

Last month (23 December 2008 HS Daily Wire) we reported that leaders of the U.S. Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism said that the Obama administration must do more, much more, to prevent a terrorist attack on the United States. The most urgent task:

Focus on bioterrorism. The united States must raise the priority of the most likely form of attack — bioterrorism — by mobilizing the life sciences community to develop protocols that prevent misuse of scientific research; tightening oversight of U.S. high-containment laboratories and the security of those around the world; improving U.S. response time in the event of an attack; and educating the American people in order to prevent panic. “We must lead the international community in the development of an action plan for universal adherence to and compliance with the anemic 36-year-old Biological Weapons Convention.”

The commission, led by former senators Bob Graham (D-Florida) and Jim Talent (R-Missouri), is apparently correct in its assessment. Peter Goodspeed writes in the National Post that the very day Barack Obama was sworn in as president, warning Americans “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred,” there were reports an al-Qaeda affiliate recently abandoned a training camp in Algeria after forty terrorists died from being exposed to the plague during a biological weapons test. The report, which first surfaced in the British tabloid The Sun, says members of al-Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb (AQLIM) hurriedly abandoned their cave hideouts in Tizi Ouzou province, 150 kilometres east of the Algerian capital Algiers, after being exposed to plague bacteria.

The newspaper said they apparently became infected while experimenting with biological weapons. Algerian security forces discovered the body of a dead terrorist alongside a road near the abandoned hideout.

U.S. intelligence officials, speaking anonymously with Eli Lake of the Washington Times on Tuesday, could only confirm the sudden base closure after an unconventional weapons test went wrong. The officials said they intercepted an urgent communication in early January between the AQLIM leadership and al-Qaeda’s top leaders in the tribal region of Pakistan. The Algerian terrorists said they were abandoning and sealing off a training area after a leak of a chemical or biological substance.

AQLIM, once known as the Salfist Group of Call & Combat, is one of the most radical and violent Islamist groups operating in North Africa. It has ties to Moroccan terrorists who carried out the 2004 Madrid train bombings and bombed the UN headquarters in Algiers in 2007, killing 41 people.

Plague comes in two types of plague. Bubonic plague, which is spread by bites from infected rat fleas, killed a third of Europe’s population in the fourteenth century but can now be treated with antibiotics. Pneumonic plague is less common but more deadly. It is spread, like the flu, by airborne bacteria, and can be inhaled and transmitted between humans without the involvement of animals or fleas.

Goodspeed reports that for years, U.S. Defense Department officials have warned al-Qaeda operatives have been actively pursuing sophisticated biological weapons research.

News of the latest al-Qaeda threat broke four days after Mike McConnell, U.S. director of national intelligence, said Osama bin Laden’s third-eldest son and heir apparent, Saad, has been released from house arrest in Iran. The 27-year-old, who was groomed by his father to assume a leadership role in al-Qaeda, had been detained since after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. U.S. intelligence says that during his detention, Saad bin Laden was allowed to continue to operate. He played a prominent role in ordering a 2002 suicide bombing of a Jewish synagogue in Tunisia, commanded a series of bombings that killed 45 people in Casablanca, Morocco, in May 2003, and sent suicide car bombers who killed 35 people in Riyadh, also in May 2003.

During his final news briefing of the Bush administration, McConnell said Saad bin Laden is now “probably in Pakistan.” His departure could signal a new relationship between Iran and al-Qaeda, but it might also suggest al-Qaeda is moving to consolidate its leadership in territory under its control in Pakistan.

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