Wearable Radiation Sensors, SynBio Threats, Chemical Attacks in Syria

Topics in this issue of CBRNE Particles include wearable radiation sensors, chemical attacks in Syria, and the risks posed by synthetic biology.

In This Article


How Shifts in Technology, Geopolitics Renewing the Threat of Great-Power Conflict

Last week the Pentagon issued a new national defense strategy that put China and Russia above jihadism as the main threat to America. This week the chief of Britain’s general staff warned of a Russian attack. Even now America and North Korea are perilously close to a conflict that risks dragging in China or escalating into nuclear catastrophe. The Economist >>

New Defense Strategy Requires Paradigm Shift in US Counterterrorism

START’s datasets, curated by scholars at universities across the nation, describe terrorist plots and attacks, organizational behavior, radicalization, leadership, cyber capabilities, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, illicit transit and criminal activities. These objective data are essential for enhancing the U.S. government’s resource allocation decisions, threat, risk and vulnerability assessments, training and capacity-building programs, and modeling and simulation efforts. The Hill >>

International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons

Initiated by France, the partnership represents a political commitment by participating countries to hold to account those responsible for the use of chemical weapons. The Partnership supports and complements existing organizations and mechanisms, including the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). U.S. State Department >>

Tillerson Says Washington, Europe Start Work on Iran Nuclear Deal

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday that working groups on fixing what the U.S. sees as flaws in the Iranian nuclear deal have already begun to meet, trying to determine the scope of what is needed and how much Iran needs to be engaged in it. Tillerson said that he had secured support from Britain, France and Germany – all parties to the 2015 agreement – to work on the deal that President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from unless changes are made. Reuters >>


New Chemical Attacks Reported in Syria, and Trump Administration Blames Russia

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Russia on Tuesday for failing to rein in poison gas attacks on Syrian civilians amid a spike in reported chemical strikes against the final rebel-held pockets of the country. Doctors inside Syria have reported four such attacks since the start of the year, including two on Monday. Washington Post >>

U.S. Accuses Syria of New Chemical Weapons Use

In a statement, Ms. Haley said that Russia bore some responsibility for the latest attacks because of its decision to veto the renewal of the panel, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism. Russia said the panel had been biased and unprofessional, accusations that the United States and its allies angrily disputed. NY Times >>


Scientists Developing New, Low-Cost Tool for Detecting Bacteria in Food and Water

University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers have developed a new, rapid and low-cost method for detecting bacteria in water or a food sample. The chip, used with a light microscope for optical detection, relies on a “capture molecule,” 3-mercaptophenylboronic acid (3-MBPA) that attracts and binds to any bacteria. >>

US Congratulates India on Joining Anti-Biological Warfare Australia Group

India last week gained entry into the Australia Group (AG), an important non-proliferation regime which seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. After the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), the membership in another of the four major export control regimes is expected to give India a leg-up in its bid to secure a berth in the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, which has been blocked by China at the behest of Pakistan. New Indian Express >>

IARPA Awards Contract to Prevent Creation of Synthetic Biological Threats

Under the Fun GCAT contract, software will be developed to assess the threat potential of genetic sequences using predictive algorithms. It would be used to screen DNA sequences to determine whether the sequence is related to any known organisms, predict the function of unknown sequences, and assign a threat level based on the potential for harm. Battelle >>

DNA Origami: Unfolding Risk?

Researchers are designing and building machines out of DNA—at a scale one thousand times smaller than a human hair. Known as DNA origami, this research folds DNA into nano-scale shapes designed to perform specific mechanical functions or biological interactions. It is still at an early stage but already shows promise in drug delivery, antibody production, and electronics. But could nanorobots be programmed to release damaging payloads inside human bodies? Could the building blocks of life be converted into destructive, double-helix swarms that wreak havoc at the cellular level? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>


‘The Military Has Seen the Writing on the Wall’

When Senator Tammy Duckworth returned from a recent trip to South Korea and Japan, she brought back a sobering message: “Americans simply are not in touch with just how close we are to war on the Korean peninsula.” In a speech at Georgetown University, she laid out the U.S. military maneuvers over the past several months—including a nuclear-powered submarine heading to South Korea, the movement of three aircraft carriers to the Western Pacific, and the Army testing out “mobilization centers” for deploying troops and training soldiers to fight in tunnels like those beneath North Korea—that inform this worry. The Atlantic >>

Kansas Team Develop Wearable Radiation Sensors for U.S. Government

A tactical yet subtle vest designed at Kansas State University in conjunction with a Manhattan startup and a Virginia-based defense contractor will help law enforcement and military agencies search for nuclear material without being noticed. Neutron detectors, once bulky boxes, are now so small they resemble a smartphone and can be operated with relatively little power, he said. The result was a black no-frills multi-pocket vest that looks like a fisherman’s jacket. Instead of fishing hooks, dozens of pockets hold 16 modules, each with 24 sensors in various places around the body. CJ Online >>

India: 930 Police Stations to Get Radiation Monitoring Gadgets

These Mobile Radiation Detections Systems (MRDS) are to be mounted on police patrol vehicles across the country. There have been multiple attempts to steal from mines over the years, and smuggle/launder nuclear material. The Times of India >>

Worst-Hit Reactor at Fukushima May Be Easiest to Clean Up

Blown apart by a hydrogen explosion in 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, reactor Unit 3 is undergoing painstaking construction ahead of a milestone that is the first step toward dismantling the plant. he operating floor — from where new fuel rods used to be lowered into the core — has been rebuilt and if all goes as planned, huge cranes will begin removing 566 sets of still-radioactive fuel rods from a storage pool just below it later this year. Seattle Times >>


Kabul Attack: Taliban Kill 95 with Ambulance Bomb in Afghan Capital

A suicide bombing has killed at least 95 people and injured 158 others in the center of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, officials say. Attackers drove an ambulance laden with explosives past a police checkpoint in a secure zone, home to government offices and foreign embassies. BBC News >>

‘The Best of The Best’: Federal K-9 Units Report to Super Bowl

Federal K-9 teams from across the country are in Minneapolis, adding support ahead of the Big Game. About a hundred teams are here to sweep buildings for explosives and to check unattended bags. Officials say these specialized teams are critical to public safety. CBS Minnesota >>

Live WWI Bomb Kept Above Fireplace Shelf in Norfolk

A man has discovered he had a live mortar bomb from the First World War sitting on his mantelpiece for five years, police have revealed. Its owner, who did not want to be identified, thought the shell had been deactivated when given it as a gift. BBC News >>

Local Explosives Expert Talks Pipe Bombs

Tyler Bowers has dealt with pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices in the Middle East and here at home for the last decade. He’s a member of the Indiana Army National Guard who has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. As a current explosive ordnance clearance agent, he was able to weigh in on the five pipe bombs found throughout Michiana in the last week. ABC57 News >>

Colombia Bomb Attack Kills Five Police, Wounds Dozens

An early morning bomb attack outside a police station in Colombia’s coastal city of Barranquilla killed at least five police officers and wounded 42 on Saturday, authorities said. The attack targeted the officers as they gathered in the San Jose neighborhood to receive their orders for the day in what police denounced as an “act of barbarity.” Reuters >>

Eleven Soldiers Killed as Militants Attack Army Unit in Kabul, Afghanistan

At least 11 soldiers have died and 16 are wounded after insurgents attacked an army unit guarding a military academy in the Afghan capital Kabul. The assault began when a suicide bomber struck the troops before other militants opened fire in an early-morning raid. Islamic State says it was behind the attack near the Marshal Fahim academy. Sky News >>

Trial Set for Man Accused of Making Bomb Parts for Jihadists

A decade ago, military police raiding a Baghdad apartment during the Iraq War discovered bomb-making materials that authorities say contained the fingerprints of a Syrian man now accused of making a key component for improvised explosive devices for a jihadist group that attacked American soldiers. His trial on federal conspiracy charges is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Phoenix. WRAL >>

Bomb Teams Disarm 3 Devices at Two Separate Fresno Locations

Three explosive devices in two separate locations were disarmed Tuesday afternoon in Fresno. The discovery of the first device took place after police conducted a probation search at Fruit and Santa Ana Avenue Tuesday morning. In a bedroom, officers found a segment of PVC pipe capped at both ends in a bedroom and called in a bomb team. Fresno Bee >>


Musicians Add ‘Counterterrorism Briefing’ to Pre-Grammy Schedule

Considering the recent attacks on concerts in Manchester, Las Vegas and Paris, this year’s Grammy weekend featured a new component: a counterterrorism briefing for musicians with State Department and European Union officials. The all-day training including briefings to a number of high-profile Grammy attendees, including Pink, Little Big Town, Chris Stapleton, Run the Jewels and Young Thug, among others. Rolling Stone >>

Ben Kingsley, Monica Bellucci to Star in Spy Thriller ‘Spider in the Web’

Kingsley plays Adereth, a highly lauded secret agent now judged by his superiors to be past his prime, who gets an opportunity for redemption when he discovers a lead on the sale of chemical weapons to a Middle Eastern dictator. Hollywood Reporter >>

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