In an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage, the American Forces Press Service reports on the first U.S. National Strategy for Biosurveillance, issued by the White House “to quickly detect a range of global health and security hazards.” According to the article, “the Defense Department has a running start in implementing the new plan, a senior defense official said,” and “many of the activities described in the strategy are ongoing at DOD.” “So much of what we’re doing is integrating the efforts and working hard on the overlap between global security and global health, in what [President Barack Obama] refers to as global health security,” said Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, the news service writes (Pellerin, 8/22).
National Security and Bioterrorism
“More than 435,000 people have been displaced in Mali, as the country faces a complex humanitarian emergency due to conflict and food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations relief agency,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/16). “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report nearly 262,000 displaced persons have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria, while another 174,000 are internally displaced in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal,” according to United Press International (8/16). “The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/18).
“As researchers from both sides of the debate over two controversial H5N1 studies weighed in [Tuesday] on full publication versus a more cautionary approach, two U.S. journals” — the Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) and its sister publication, Clinical Infectious Diseases — “said they are developing policies to address any future such instances,” CIDRAP News writes. “We are developing policies that address these issues on a case-by-case basis, so that freedom of scientific expression can be maintained without sacrificing individual safety or national security,” JID Editor Martin Hirsch wrote in an editorial, the news service notes, adding, “He also introduced three new JID perspective pieces that discuss the difficult issues” (Schnirring, 3/28).
U.S. intelligence agencies released a report (.pdf) on Thursday warning that “[d]rought, floods and a lack of fresh water may cause significant global instability and conflict in the coming decades, as developing countries scramble to meet demand from exploding populations while dealing with the effects of climate change,” the Associated Press reports (Lee, 3/22). “The Intelligence Community Assessment report says the water challenges will increase regional tensions and distract countries from working with the U.S. on important issues,” VOA News writes, noting, “The report’s purpose was to assess the impact of global water issues on U.S. security interests over the next 30 years” (3/22).
Speaking at State Department headquarters in recognition of World Water Day on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “announced a new partnership of organizations to apply the nation’s abundant experience in water issues to solving global water challenges,” according to IIP Digital. “The partnership will bring together more than 30 agencies, institutions and advocacy organizations with diverse experience and knowledge of water issues,” the news service writes (Porter, 3/22). The U.S. Water Partnership will “creat[e] a platform for fostering new partnerships among the U.S.-based private sector and the non-profit, academic, scientific, and expert communities” and “will mobilize the ‘Best-of-America’ to provide safe drinking water and sanitation and improve water resources management worldwide,” according to a State Department press release (3/22). “Something as simple as better access to water and sanitation can improve the quality of life and reduce the disease burden for billions of people,” Clinton said, VOA News notes (3/22).
Ukraine Security Secretary Says HIV, TB Remain Threat To Nation’s Security, Encourages Cooperation With Global Fund
Speaking about two bills concerning Ukraine’s cooperation with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ukraine Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Andriy Kliuyev said “[t]he epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis [TB] remain a threat to national security in Ukraine and require redoubled efforts to treat and prevent these diseases,” Interfax reports. Submitted to Ukraine’s parliament by the Cabinet of Ministers, the two bills “propos[e] to exempt from taxes and duties all transactions connected with the use of grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Ukraine,” the news agency notes. “The NSDC secretary said the state should explore every avenue to minimize the sickness rate and create conditions for the treatment and prevention of dangerous diseases, adding that the grants of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are valuable support for Ukraine,” Interfax writes (3/3).
Rep. Sensenbrenner Sends ‘Fact-Finding Letter’ To White House Science Adviser About Bird Flu Studies
“Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former head of the House committees on science and the judiciary, and currently vice chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, last week sent a ‘fact-finding letter’ to White House science adviser John Holdren, asking pointed questions about how the U.S. government has handled the controversy” surrounding two studies that showed how H5N1 bird flu virus could be manipulated to become transmissible among ferrets, a model for humans, “and questioning whether it should have funded the two flu studies,” ScienceInsider reports. “The [Obama] Administration’s response has appeared ad hoc, delayed, and inadequate,” Sensenbrenner writes, adding, “An ad hoc approach is inadequate to balance the priorities of public health and the free flow of academic ideas,” according to the article, which includes the full text of the letter.
InterAction Sends Letter To CIA Head Protesting Use Of Vaccination Plot To Find Bin Laden In Pakistan
“An alliance of 200 U.S. aid groups has written to the head of the CIA to protest against its use of a doctor to help track Osama bin Laden, linking the agency’s ploy to the polio crisis in Pakistan,” the Guardian reports, noting Pakistan recorded the highest number of polio cases in the world last year. The CIA used a “fake vaccination scheme in the town of Abbottabad … in order to gain entry to the house where it was suspected that the al-Qaida chief was living, and extract DNA samples from his family members,” the newspaper writes. But the plan “provided seeming proof for a widely held belief in Pakistan, fuelled by religious extremists, that polio drops are a western conspiracy to sterilize the population,” according to the Guardian.
The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) is scheduled this week to hold “a closed-door meeting to once again look at unpublished manuscripts describing” two studies that showed how H5N1 bird flu virus could be manipulated to become transmissible among ferrets, a model for humans, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports, noting that the meeting “will include a classified briefing from the intelligence community.” The article examines the “dual use” nature of the studies, meaning “legitimate scientific work that’s intended to advance science or medicine, but that also might be misused with the intent to do harm.” Though the “concept of dual use got a lot of attention even before this bird flu controversy,” scientists, institutions and funding agencies do not always have policies in place to review the potential consequences of research, the blog notes (Greenfieldboyce, 3/26).
“The U.S. government [on Thursday] released a new policy [.pdf] that will require federal agencies to systematically review the potential risks associated with federally funded studies involving 15 ‘high consequence’ pathogens and toxins, including the H5N1 avian influenza virus,” Science Insider reports. “The reviews are designed to reduce the risks associated with ‘dual use research of concern’ (DURC) that could be used for good or evil,” the news service writes (Malakoff, 3/29).