The Pandora Report

Highlights include Syria’s Chemical Weapons (will they won’t they?), Ebola for breakfast, stronger regulations for H5N1 research (blame the ferrets), first responders and zombies, the bacteria are planning our overthrow, and more Syria (hey at least it’s not Ebola). Happy Friday!

Why Assad Won’t Use His Chemical Weapons (and why you should still be worried)

FAS Fellow and GMU Adjunct Faculty Charles Blair (he’s brilliant) has an excellent piece in Foreign Policy on Syria’s  chemical weapons. Check it out below!

“Since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, concerns over the country’s chemical arsenal have largely reflected the fear that terrorists might steal them in the chaotic aftermath of Bashar al Assad’s overthrow. Military use against the Free Syrian Army seemed less likely, largely because the use of unconventional weapons would violate international law and norms. If it broke that taboo, the regime would risk losing Russian and Chinese support, legitimizing foreign military intervention, and, ultimately, hastening its own end. As one Syrian official said, ‘We would not commit suicide.'”

Health Concerns Raised as Ugandans Add Primates to the Menu

Today’s holiday special is two sausages with eggs Benedict and Ebola.  All meals come with complimentary cup of coffee (no refills).

Voice of America – “Uganda’s recent flood of Congolese refugees is having unexpected side-effects: some Ugandans are adopting the Congolese custom of eating primates, a new trend that may be linked to outbreaks of Ebola and represents a potential threat to the country’s endangered chimpanzee population. According to sanctuary director Lily Ajarova, while primate consumption is not unusual in Africa, Uganda has no history of the practice. Although her team has yet to find Ugandans eating chimpanzees in particular, they fear that Ugandans who are known eat various primates may soon go the way of their chimp-eating neighbors to the west.”

Proposed H5N1 Research Reviews Raise Concerns (Paywall)

Should experiments which may result in the generation of potentially dangerous information be published? Should they be conducted at all? As a biodefense student, I tend to say yes, absolutely – exercise caution, but stringent secrecy seems to do more harm than good. It’s a slippery slope.

Science – “Researchers are giving a mixed reception to a draft U.S. government plan to do more stringent funding reviews of certain kinds of H5N1 avian influenza research—and perhaps even require some studies to be kept secret. The proposal, presented last week at a meeting of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, is the latest fallout from the controversy surrounding two studies in which scientists engineered the H5N1 virus and led to a voluntary moratorium on such potentially risky “gain-of-function” studies. The new proposal seeks to help biosecurity experts for funding agencies identify problematic experiments before they begin.”

First responders drill response to a “Night of the Walking Dead” scenario

zombie_0

Looks like DHS is finally wising and preparing for something of which we’re all actually afraid. All I’m saying is, CDC has been on this for years.  

Homeland Security Newswire – “DHS funds were approved to pay the $1,000 fee for a week-long conference at Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego; the marquee event of the summit was its highly-promoted ;zombie apocalypse’ demonstration; Strategic Operations, a tactical training firm, was hired to put on a ‘zombie-driven show’ designed to simulate a real-life terrorism event; the firm performed two shows on Halloween, which featured forty actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit”

Did Bacteria Fuel World’s Worst Extinction?

For all the germaphobes out there, we give you reason to be afraid of the little suckers. And of all the inglorious ways to wipe out a planet – methane gas, I ask you.

LiveScience – “Nickel-eating bacteria may have worsened the world’s worst mass die-off by producing huge amounts of methane, a new study suggests. The study is the latest attempt to explain how most of the world’s ocean species died off in just a few hundred thousand years at the end of the Permian era, about 250 million years ago. The researchers presented their findings Tuesday (Dec. 4) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Red Cross in touch with Syrian government on biological, chemical arms

(The Syrian situation from the NGO perespective) You know things are dire when the Red Cross starts making contingency plans. Has anyone else started uneasily refreshing their knowledge on the rumored extent of Syria’s BW cache?

Reuters – “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been in touch with the Syrian government about both biological and chemical weapons whose use is illegal under international humanitarian law, its president said on Thursday. The humanitarian agency is making “contingency planning” in the event that any chemical weapons are used, especially to protect its nearly 100 aid workers deployed in Syria, but remains focused on the wider needs of the civilian population.”

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