Army Chemical and Biodefense Training Keeping It Real Despite Being Virtual

By Marisa Tuszl, Biodefense MS Student

As a second-year Biodefense Master’s student at George Mason University (GMU), I was initially interested in taking the Medical Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties (MMCBC) course to broaden my knowledge of chemical and biological agents as well as learn about the processes for properly treating patients in a contaminated environment. The MMCBC course presented an opportunity to improve my understanding of what procedures are in place to assist the United States military during biological or chemical emergency situations as well as to learn about current and future medical countermeasures. Since I have an undergraduate degree in Forensic Chemistry, I found the lectures about various chemical agents and the different antidotes and decontamination procedures during field examinations fascinating.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) hosted a virtual version of MMCBC. The week-long program covered a variety of topics from the principles of decontamination and field management to infection control procedures and emerging medical countermeasures. The Army’s video capabilities allowed the live audience to be a part of the demonstrations in the USAMRICD facility and observe the process of casualty assessment and decontamination flow from the hot zone to the cold zone. Another highlight of the training was a triage assessment exercise that gave the participants the opportunity to virtually diagnose and manage the care of a patient infected with an unknown biological agent in real-time. While I was initially concerned that I would be missing out by being limited to a virtual course, MMCBC was a remarkable experience that allowed me to learn from the military’s top experts in the fields of chemical and biological defense.

My favorite part of the course was during day two of the chemical section. Dr. James Madsen (COL, Ret.) opened the day with a chipper demeanor that had the audience eager for his lecture on nerve agents and pretreatment. While Dr. Madsen explained that this was an in-depth presentation on the subject matter, he used helpful symbols, such as orange Pacman, green dots, blue diamonds, pink diamonds, and crowbars, to visually represent how the peripheral nervous system reacts to nerve agents, what ensues in the body during the exposure to these chemicals, and how the antidotes can combat the effects of nerve agents. Thanks to his presentation style, the intense subject matter of the processes going on throughout the human body following exposure to a nerve agent were easily understood. Furthermore, his lecture helped convey more clearly what consequences occur to various parts of the body from these organophosphorus compounds. Beyond the physical signs and symptoms that can be assessed and treated, Dr. Madsen explained how one can intervene before exposure with prophylaxis or pretreatments and after exposure with reactive skin decontamination lotion (RSDL) and thorough decontamination procedures. The information provided by this presentation was insightful and highlighted how observant medical professionals and military personnel must be to identify the correct chemical agent in order to deploy the appropriate countermeasure and prevent additional exposures.

All in all, the MMCBC program supplied me with an outstanding educational experience to learn about chemical and biological defenses and how military and civilian personnel should be prepared to handle chemical and biological incidents. This course was beneficial in providing myself and the other participants with the tools and guidance on how to identify the symptoms of different chemical and biological agents, provide the appropriate decontamination and medical care, and evaluate the available treatments or antidotes. In addition to this course, individuals can take other courses by USAMRIID and USAMRICD such as Field Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties (FCBC) and Hospital Management of Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear & Explosive (HM-CBRNE) Incidents.  I look forward to learning even more from USAMRIID and USAMRICD experts during the virtual HM-CBRNE course in January and eventually FCBC once in-person courses resume.

Marisa Tuszl is working towards her Master’s in Biodefense at George Mason University. She was a forensic chemist for three years after graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 2016. Her interests include weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism, and healthcare response/resilience.

MMBC Lives Up to Reputation as the “Gold Standard” for Chemical and Biological Defense Training

By Ishaan Sandhu, Biodefense MS Student

As a student in the Biodefense MS Program, the Medical Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties (MMCBC) course appealed to me because it offered “real-world” insights into the materials covered by the Biodefense program at the Schar School of Policy and Government. The interdisciplinary nature of biodefense requires the consideration of different perspectives, especially the military’s viewpoint. I must acknowledge the simple “wow-factor” of being able to attend a specialized military learning experience that is considered the “gold standard” in chemical and biological defense training by the Government Accountability Office. This was an opportunity I simply couldn’t miss.

The MMCBC course was extremely thorough and concise in its teachings. The beauty of the course was in its organizational structure and high degree of engagement. Both the chemical and biological sections started with foundational knowledge on the principles for the medical management of casualties. From there, we learned about the various threat agents and their mechanisms of actions, symptom presentation, dose effects, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and operational implications. The predominantly military speakers always discussed the potential differences and similarities in medical management for military and civilian practitioners. While agent delivery systems and command structures primarily catered to the needs of the military, specific considerations, such as maintaining a warfighter’s operational capacity, could be applied to civilian first responders after a chemical or biological incident.

Other lectures focused on medical countermeasures (MCMs), decontamination, and triage. Currently available MCMs were covered as well as the processes of developing new ones. MCM development was something several Biodefense classes I’ve taken at the Schar School covered, but it was interesting to learn about this subject from a military perspective with additional strategic considerations. Decontamination, which was another topic I had briefly learned about previously, was covered in greater detail during this training. New variables to consider, such as site security and operational tempo, were discussed and explained. Similarly, the lectures on triage introduced new considerations such as conducting triage in the field versus at a civilian location.

One key feature of the course was the frequent callbacks or references to previous lectures. Specific classes focused on PPE and chemical defense equipment, but were referenced and contextualized when discussing specific agents. Video simulations, instructor demonstrations, and hypothetical scenarios supplemented lecture information. Samples of triage and casualty cards were given to us and used to demonstrate triage and clinical care processes. Case studies tested our ability to distinguish between different agents and apply the principles of medical management. Consistently relating information between the classes reinforced and tested our understanding of the knowledge presented.

Overall, the MMCBC course was an invaluable learning experience that reinforced my academic knowledge and offered new perspectives on biodefense strategies. The course, which catered to both military and civilian students, will serve me well no matter what career path I choose. Despite being held virtually, the course and its instructors were still successful in covering all aspects of the medical management of chemical and biological casualties. The inability to attend in-person did not impact the course’s effectiveness, although I am disappointed that I was not able to participate in hands-on demonstrations. Putting on MOPP (mission-oriented protective posture) level 4 gear and watching military working dogs in a mock CBRNE environment would have been the highlight of my semester.

Ishaan Sandhu is a graduate student in the Biodefense Master’s program at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry in 2017, he has been conducting clinical research, although he is currently transitioning towards security studies. His interests include national biodefense policy and strategy, as well as intelligence analysis.  

Importance of Mental Health in Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties

By Madeline Roty, Biodefense MS Student

In March 2020, I was supposed to attend the Medical Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties (MMCBC) course sponsored by the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD). These plans were foiled by the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the Army to pause its in-residence courses: it would be rather ironic if an outbreak of COVID-19 occurred at a course on how to manage biological casualties. Fortunately, USAMRIID and USAMRICD were able to adapt the training and transition to a virtual format which I attended in October 2020. 

Though we were not able to don and doff personal protective equipment (PPE), simulate atropine injections to treat a nerve agent attack, or engage in other hands-on opportunities, being in a virtual setting did not reduce our access to some of the world’s leading experts on chemical and biological threats. An incredible amount of information was covered in six surprisingly short days. The first three days focused on chemical threats, and the remaining three days focused on biological threats. Topics included the history of chemical and biological warfare, specific chemical agents and pathogens, treatments, decontamination, triage, epidemiology, and even care for military working dogs. Case studies and patient scenarios allowed us to put our knowledge to the test by making presumptive diagnoses, triaging and prioritizing our patients for decontamination and evacuation, and determining how we would treat the presenting patient. My background is nursing, which made understanding some of the content easier, but in my four years of nursing school, we only scratched the surface of the content delivered in these six days. I now have the knowledge to go into the field and confidently assess a victim of a mustard gas attack or identify patients presenting with symptoms of inhalational anthrax. Much of the information covered in the biological portion of the training was familiar to me from my biodefense courses at George Mason, but it was a great opportunity to apply my knowledge and to learn more about the Department of Defense’s role in biodefense. 

One of my favorite lessons was given by Dr. Ross Pastel on the “Psychological Effects of Biowarfare.” I have a particular interest in the psychological effects of disease outbreaks on health care workers, so I was thrilled to see that the Department of Defense includes behavioral health in its educational courses and planning for biological events. The most important points that Dr. Pastel expounded on were the difference between risk and the perception of risk, the expectation of psychological casualties during chemical and biological events, and the acknowledgment that the psychological effects of hazardous conditions are real.

For experts, risk is “simply” calculated by multiplying the hazard by the amount of exposure to it and its consequences. For the layperson, risk is more subjective; it is the product of the hazard and the person’s perception of the hazard. Perception can be influenced by factors like uncertainty of exposure to the hazard, limited knowledge, experience, and controllability of the hazard. Why is this distinction important? Perception of risk contributes to a person’s psychological reaction, even if the perceived risk is greater than the actual risk. Even in the absence of a true threat, the perception of a threat can still exist and result in psychological casualties.

During World War II, the proportion of combat stress casualties to wounded in action was about 1:4. Data from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, during which troops feared potential exposure to chemical agents from smoke plumes following the destruction of Iraqi sites, showed that the proportion of combat stress casualties to wounded in action was 3:1. (In reality, only a small percentage of concerned troops were actually confirmed to have been exposed to chemical agents. The known exposure was accidental and resulted from the post-war demolition of Iraqi chemical rockets.) This extreme inversion suggests that more psychological casualties should be expected during a chemical or biological attack than from a traditional attack. Similar findings have been found beyond the battlefield. Health care workers have reported that they were more unwilling to report to work during a biological threat, like the SARS pandemic, than to any other disasters, like snow storms or mass casualty events. Characteristics of biological weapons, like the invisibility of the agent and lack of experience with these threats, increases the perception of risk and contributes to the higher number of acute psychological effects.  

When thinking about planning for catastrophes, including chemical or biological attacks, many discuss the “worried well.” Worried well is an inaccurate term that diminishes the genuine psychological impact chemical and biological attacks can have, preserving the stigma associated with mental health diagnoses and treatment. Psychological symptoms are real, and they can be painful. Furthermore, symptoms of anxiety and fear can manifest with the vague, similar symptomology of some biological or chemical agents including nausea, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. While most psychological effects are acute, long-term effects can include burn-out and job change, alcohol and drug misuse, family disturbances, domestic violence, and chronic medical issues including depression and PTSD.

This lesson is particularly important in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Health care workers are overworked, understaffed, and stressed. Exposure to the media covering pandemic news is constant, which could increase incidents of post-traumatic stress symptomology. It is important to note that experiencing symptomatology is not the same as having the disorder, but it is still painful and unhealthy. As we try to respond to the pandemic by taking actions to protect and/or improve the physical health of patients, workers, and the public, mental health cannot be neglected.

MMCBC was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone interested in the fields of chemical and biological weapons. While I hope I never have to use my new knowledge, I am very glad to have it. The instructors and staff deserve a big thank you for making this course possible during these unconventional times. I am particularly appreciative of Dr. Pastel for bringing much-needed attention to the importance of mental health and acknowledging that psychological effects following exposure to hazardous conditions are real and need to be addressed, not dismissed.

Madeline Roty is working towards her Master’s in Biodefense at George Mason University. She became a registered nurse after graduating from the University of Michigan School of Nursing in 2019. Her interests include public and nursing education about mass casualty events and the role of culture on decision-making.

Learning to Identify Suspicious Outbreaks

By Deborah Cohen, Biodefense Certificate Student

The Medical Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties (MMCBC) course is densely packed with usable and actionable training for battlefield incidents caused by chemical and biological attacks. The strategies for assessing events and responding could well extend to civilian situations, which may occur adjacent to military operations or even on the home front far from the typical war zone. 

I was compelled to take the course for a few reasons. As a longtime resident of Maryland, I have always had a curiosity about the activities of the two Army facilities in my state – Fort Detrick and Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). My interest in geopolitical affairs has coincided with the progression of the institutional missions of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) at APG. Through the MMCBC practicum, I hoped to gain further insight into the culture and structure of our programs to prepare for and respond to chemical and biological threats. This training promised to be highly relevant and serve as a reinforcement to my studies in the Biodefense Graduate Program at the Schar School as well. It certainly delivered on that promise.

Normally, the chemical instruction portion of the course is held at APG and the biological portion is held at Fort Detrick. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, my enthusiastic classmates from the Biodefense program and I attended all of the sessions virtually. That was the only disappointment during the week-long course. Though it would have been preferable to meet instructors and military personnel in-person at the facilities and we were not able to gain the hands-on experience with supplies like antidote kits and protective gear, these drawbacks were partially compensated for by video simulations and demonstrations. Army flexibility showed through under these special circumstances caused by the pandemic. That said, if given the chance, I would really like to practice donning and doffing protective gear.

The MMCBC training is very comprehensive and well organized. A cross section of topics included identifying the causative agents that can affect warriors in the field, nerve agents, the how-to’s of triage and evacuation, and foodborne incidents. All of the topics were fascinating as the instructors made each topic thematically overlap with the next. One of the most interesting units was “Epidemiology of Biological Terrorism” presented by Captain Benjamin Pierson.  Many of the MMCBC presentations elucidated the use of “clues” to diagnose an illness or injury in the context of the subject being a victim of an intentional biological or chemical attack. CPT Pierson’s presentation tied a lot of these clues together for me.   

CPT Pierson demonstrated how an 11-point BW assessment tool integrated with a commonly used public health 10-step epidemiological outbreak investigation could help differentiate between natural and deliberate disease outbreaks.  Among the clues used in this type of investigation are the time frame of the outbreak, locations of the cases, and the size of the outbreak.  Clues pointing to a deliberate outbreak are a higher than expected number of cases or highly unusual circumstances such as a higher fatality rate or the emergence of unexpected diseases.  Simultaneous outbreaks of the same disease in different locations or a rapid succession of outbreaks can also point to deliberate schemes.  Many biological warfare agents of concern are zoonotic agents that can cause disease in humans and animals. The presence of dead animals, simultaneous infections of humans or animals, reverse zoonosis in which humans infect animals, or the rapid spread of an infection during a very condensed time period could indicate a suspicious outbreak. Finally, of course, there can be direct evidence of a deliberate attack such as a letter filled with Bacillus anthracis spores.

I learned from CPT Pierson that the key to a successful investigation to characterize an outbreak as either naturally-occurring or deliberately caused is for the investigators to maintain an “Index of Suspicion” throughout the process.  The “Index of Suspicion” refers to the likelihood that a patient’s symptoms and circumstances will lead to a particular disease diagnosis.  To be on the lookout for intentional attacks, investigators or clinicians would be well served to have a heightened level of awareness of the signs and symptoms associated with the effects of a biological or chemical attack. Approaching an epidemiological investigation with a “BW Index of Suspicion” tuned to the possibility of deliberately caused events can result in a more rapid assessment and response.       

While we can debate the probabilities of a biological or chemical attack occurring on the battlefield or in a civilian setting, what is not debatable are the consequences of such an attack.  A chemical or biological attack on military or civilian personnel could inflict a horrible toll.  These weapons present practitioners of chemical and biological defense with a constellation of problems.  While the MMCBC training is focused on providing insights into pragmatic military tactical solutions to these threats, sharing these solutions with civilian responders reinforces the need for all stakeholders to participate in rapid detection and response should an attack occur.  The Army’s commitment to chemical and biological defense is exemplary and I am highly appreciative that they offer this practical training to civilian biodefense practitioners.

Deborah Cohen will complete the Graduate Certificate program in Biodefense at George Mason University in 2021. In her current role at SGS North America, she provides assessments and lab testing services for biological, chemical and environmental hazards to customers in agri-food, consumer products and infrastructure businesses across the globe.  Her focus includes biothreats risk analysis and management and technological innovations for threat detection and prevention.

Pandora Report 11.6.2015

Happy Friday! The world of biodefense and global health security has been busy this week – between a growing outbreak of E. coli associated with Chipotle restaurants, to a review of Select Agent lab practices, and a recap of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, there’s more than enough to keep you busy! Fun history fact Friday (it’s our version of “flashback Friday”), did you know that on November 6, 1971, the US Atomic Energy Commission tested the largest US underground hydrogen bomb (code name Cannikin) on Amchitka Island?

CDC/Select Agent List- 90 Day Internal Review
We’ve seen a lot of news lately regarding lab safety and biodefense reform/recommendations. With so much scrutiny regarding biosafety practices, it’s not surprising the CDC would do a deep dive into “how the agency inspects select agent labs” with a 90 day review. The review notes that while it didn’t duplicate the recommendations from Presidential Order 13546, it did find several areas for improvement, leading to nine observations and ten actionable recommendations. The categories for recommendations are inspections, incident reporting, and transparency. The findings point to several areas for improvement, ranging from the standardization of risk assessments to identify high risk activities, to the sharing of inspection data to better encourage public understanding of the work practices performed with these agents. The report highlights several areas for improvement that will hopefully lead to more stable biosecurity and public understanding of how we handle select agents. You can also check out the Federal Select Agent Program for a list of the agents and regulations involved.

2016 Presidential Candidates on Nonproliferation
GMU’s Greg Mercer is at it again with round three of his review on 2016 presidential candidates and their comments on nonproliferation. As of now, he’s reviewed the Republican candidates, but now he’s delving into the Democratic candidates. Greg reviews Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley, noting that ” in contrast to Republicans, most Democrats support the Iran deal, and generally tend to favor international arms control regimes.” With the race only heating up, stay tuned  for more of Greg’s candidate-by-candidate reviews on nonproliferation in the 2016 election.

GMU Master’s Open House and Application Deadlines!
Considering a master’s degree? Come check out the GMU School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs (SGPIA) Open House on Wednesday, November 18th, 6:30pm at our Arlington Campus in Founders Hall (Room 126). There’s even a pre-session for veterans and active duty military at 5:45pm! The Open House is a great way to learn about our different Master’s programs (Biodefense, International Security, Political Science, etc.) and ask real-time questions with faculty. Our Biodefense Program Director, Dr. Koblentz, will be there to discuss global health security and tell you about the pretty amazing things we get to do at GMU! If you’ve already attended or are planning to apply, just a friendly reminder that PhD program applications are due December 1st, and Biodefense Master’s Spring applications are due December 1st as well.

Zika Virus Outbreak in Colombia
Nine new cases have been identified in Sincelejo, Colombia, with an additional three being investigated in Barranquilla. Zika virus is a vectorborne disease that is transmitted through Aedes mosquitos. The CDC notes that vertical transmission (from mother to child) can occur if the mother is infected near her delivery and Zika can be spread through blood transfusion (although no cases have occurred this way) and sexual contact (one case of sexually transmitted Zika virus has occurred to date). Common signs and symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes that last several days to a week. In the past, transmission has occurred in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands, however, there have been cases in 2015 in Brazil and Colombia. We’ll keep you updated if transmission continues in South America!

There have also been cases of Chikungunya springing up throughout the Caribbean and Americas. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) initially reported just over 2,400 cases a few weeks ago, however a new report is showing 13,476 new cases. Initially starting in December 2013, this epidemic began with a single locally acquired case on St. Martin island, and is now totaling 1, 760,798 cases.

Chipotle E.coli Outbreak 
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Chipotle (we reported that Minnesota  Chipotle customers experienced a Salmonella outbreak in August), an E. coli outbreak is making headlines in Washington and Oregon. Public health officials updated the case total to 41 people as of 11/4, with 6 patients requiring hospitalization. The source of the outbreak hasn’t been identified yet but as a precautionary measure, they’ve closed 14 restaurants. So far, the identified cases have been tied to five restaurants across six counties.

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Stories you May Have Missed

  • CRISPR-Cas9 Utility Broadens – researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have improved on the utility of CRISPR-Cas9 through application via bacterial sources. The team “reports evolving a variant of SaCas9 – the Cas9 enzyme from Streptococcus aureus bacteria – that recognizes a broader range of nucleotide sequences, allowing targeting of the genomic sites previously inaccessible to CRISPR-Cas9 technology.” The new application allows a more precise targeting within the genomic sequence, which may translate to therapeutic applications. CRISPR-Cas9 has been a hot topic within the science and biodefense community in relation to its potential labeling as dual use research of concern (DURC) and certain ethical debates.
  • Unvaccinated Babies Refused By Some Physicians– Vaccination status is something I’ve grappled with working in pediatrics and is one of the rare things that can turn a calm physician (or infection preventionist for that matter) red-faced and needing a breather. The Boston Globe reported on a recent survey from the American Academy of Pediatrics that touched on pediatricians dismissing families that refused vaccines. The study found that all pediatricians surveyed had encountered at least one parent refusing vaccination for their child and 20% of pediatricians “often” or “always” dismissed families who refuse one or more vaccine. Interestingly, researchers found that “doctors in private practice, those located in the South, and those in states without philosophical exemption laws were the most likely to dismiss families refusing to vaccinate their infant”.
  • Guinea Ebola Tranmission – Guinea continues to experience new cases. As we mentioned last week, the cluster of four patients from the Kondeyah village is being monitored by public health officials. An infected newborn, whose mother died from Ebola recently, is also under observation and care. The infant’s mother was a confirmed case prior to her delivery and died after giving birth. The WHO is currently monitoring 382 contacts in Guinea during this time.

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Pandora Report 10.30.2015

The witching hour is upon us! Halloween is tomorrow and with that we must ask, how good are your zombie fighting skills? Good news if you’re in Arlington, VA, as it’s considered one of the top ten cities to survive the zombie apocalypse – good thing GMU has a campus there (we biodefense folks are the ultimate planners!). This week was busy with the release of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense’s National Report. I was able to attend the panel event, so read on for my comments and your weekly dose of biodefense news!

DSC_3586GMU Biodefense Program News & Alumni 
We’ve added a new page to salute our biodefense alumni and all that they do with their GMU education. GMU Biodefense students have a diverse background in their education, experiences, and interests, and we absolutely love getting to brag about all the amazing things they accomplish after their studies. Whether it’s a new publication or an award, we hope to pass along their accolades, so please check out our new page to see how GMU Biodefense alumni are contributing to the world of global health security!

12111966_10104338304988922_3051154411712634566_n-1Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense Releases Report– I had the pleasure of attending the Blue Ribbon panel on Wednesday, in which they reviewed their report, “A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts”. The panel event saw Senator Joe Lieberman, former Governor Tom Ridge, and former Homeland Security Advisor, Kenneth L. Wainstein, discuss the challenges of biodefense, the report, and answer several questions regarding their findings. The report is comprised of 33 recommendations that range from unification of biodefense budgeting to optimizing the National Biosurveillance Integration System and to improving surveillance and planning for animal and zoonotic outbreaks. Along with these 33 recommendations, there are 100 action items. Perhaps one of the biggest take-aways from the report is the recommendation that the Office of the Vice President of the US assume authority over biodefense efforts. There is heavy emphasis on a unified budget and centralization to combat the redundancy and current siloing we see in existing programs.  Senator Lieberman discussed the role of the research and private sector’s involvement, with former Gov. Ridge noting that “we need to start thinking differently about how we incentivize the private sector.” The panel discussed that despite our past efforts, the Ebola outbreak in 2014 showed that the “threat is real, lets not wait for it to occur” and as former Gov. Ridge noted, “we don’t give bioweapon threats the attention they need. The threat is ahead of us.” Senator Lieberman commented on the Ebola situation,  noting that our response was dismal and despite 10 months of warning, basic human errors led to a failure in providing hospitals with general guidelines. Whether it is an intentional bioweapons attack, outbreak of an emerging infectious disease, or unintentional, accidental release due to lab safety errors, the panel’s goal of having centralized leadership reveals the complex nature of these challenges. Also, did I mention that they included infection control in their guidelines (#18)?! Overall, I found the event highly engaging and was pleased to hear the panel members approach these topics with not only a sense of urgency, but a holistic manner to meet the challenges of biodefense.

Jump Start – Accelerating Government Response to A National Biological Crisis
UPMC Center for Health Security has released their July 2015 report that “examines a scenario in which the US is suddenly faced with a newly emerged intentional biological threat that could produce catastrophic public health consequences and threaten our economy, government, and social structure.” The report reviews governance, public health response, medical countermeasures, healthcare system response, decontamination and remediation, and environmental detection, while making recommendations. Utilizing published literature and subject matter expert interviews, the Jump Start report scenario occurs in central Moscow subway stations and Red Square. It discusses responses in a post-Amerithrax world and highlights the need to stop the spread of infectious diseases while emphasizing that in a similar scenario, the US government should push out table-top exercises at a national level to test readiness to biothreats. The role of healthcare infrastructure and capacity comes into play, highlighting the limitations that diagnostic testing plays – even if the solutions aren’t available. I’d be curious to see a more detailed analysis of how we approach novel agents and the time-lag this can often cause in diagnosis. Also – what would be the ethical dilemmas regarding invasive medical treatments for a novel agent? Medical ethics became a very real issue during Ebola preparedness (perhaps not as well discussed in media circuits) as the invasive care capabilities of healthcare professionals in the US correlates with increasing risk for disease transmission.

White House Calls for Better Biosafety –  As fallout from several lab safety breaches, the White House issued recommendations that focus on labs that are registered to work with pathogens from the Select Agents list. Ranging from increased training to assessing the number of high containment labs we have in the US, this memo, with a deadline for the recommendations, sets the tone for change when it comes to biosafety.

Saudi Arabi MERS Cluster – reports from Saudi Arabi’s Ministry of Health have confirmed a healthcare-associated cluster of MERS-CoV cases that involved seven individuals. The initial patient was seen in the emergency department of Almana General Hospital, with five other patients exposed in the hospital, and an additional case that is believed to not have had a healthcare exposure. All patients are under observation in the King Fahad Hospital. One of the patients is reported to be a nurse. In previous weeks, there was a cluster of cases related to janitors living together in Riyadh.

Stories You May Have Missed:

  • The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved a $33.3 million grant towards a Post Ebola Recovery Social Investment Fund (PERSIF) for efforts in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The US State Department is contributing a $5 million grant towards this to help support livelihood development for women, girls, and orphans from the affected countries. The goal is to build resilience in the affected countries and strengthen the economic systems while improving governance and communication.
  • Nigeria was just removed from the WHO’s list of polio-endemic countries! After halting the spread of wild poliovirus transmission during a 15 month period, Nigeria was declared free of the disease! The WHO is continuing to work on the remaining two polio-endemic countries; Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Three more cases of Ebola in Guinea were reported this week. The three patients are all family members, with one being a pregnant woman. Guinea experienced several cases last week while Liberia has been EVD-free since September 3rd and Sierra Leone just passed their six week mark without a new case.
  • The WHO announces that TB surpassed HIV as the leading cause of death from infectious disease in 2014. Better surveillance enabled global public health teams to identify new cases. In Indonesia alone, there were one million new cases reported this year. The WHO notes that while surveillance efforts are revealing new cases, progress is still insufficient, especially in regards to drug resistance.

 

Week in DC: Events 10.19-10.23

Monday, October 19, 2015
The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Balancing Humanitarian and Security Challenges – Bipartisan Policy Center
Time: 11am-noon
Location: Bipartisan Policy Center1225 I Street, NW Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20005(map)
The civil war in Syria has caused one of the largest displacements of persons in recent history, creating humanitarian, political, and security challenges that the United States and its allies now confront. More than half of Syrians—some 12 million—are displaced. Of that number, more than 4 million have fled Syria’s borders, with millions living in neighboring countries in the region. Hundreds of thousands more are trying to make their way to European countries in order to claim asylum and approximately 1,500 Syrians have received asylum in the United States. Meanwhile, as EU and U.S. leaders work to address this flow of refugees, the Islamic State extremist group has boasted of disguising thousands of terrorists as refugees in order to infiltrate them into Western countries, and a recently released report by the House Homeland Security Committee’s bipartisan task force found that international efforts to secure borders and stem the flow of foreign fighters have been woefully ineffective. Join the Bipartisan Policy Center for a discussion on the humanitarian and security dimensions of the refugee crisis and how the two can be balanced and should be reconciled to create a coherent U.S. and global policy response.

The Growth of Isis and The Deterioration of Women’s Rights in the Middle EastWomen’s Foreign Policy Group
Time: 1pm
Location: The Wilderness Society1615 M Street, NW Washington, DC (map)
Luncheon and ProgramGeorge Washington University  Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, the former and founding director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is a public policy fellow at the Wilson Center. She has had a rich and varied career. In her native Iran, she was a journalist, served as deputy secretary general of the Women’s Organization of Iran, and was the deputy director of a cultural foundation where she was responsible for the activities of several museums and art and cultural centers. Esfandiari taught Persian at Oxford and, prior to joining the Wilson Center, she taught Persian, Persian literature, and courses on the women’s movement in Iran at Princeton. She was also a fellow at the Wilson Center from 1995 to 1996. Esfandiari has authored and edited several books including, My Prison, My Home: One Woman’s Story of Captivity in Iran (2009). She has also written numerous articles and op-eds including ISIS’s Cruelty toward Women Gets Scant Attention and ISIS Says the Quran Allows Enslaving Women. Will Clerical Leaders Respond? Esfandiari has received numerous awards for her work, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of the Peace Research Endowment and the Project on Middle East Democracy. Tara Sonenshine (Moderator), coordinator for global partnerships at Planet Forward, is a former fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. Previously, she served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and before that, as the executive vice president of USIP. Prior to joining USIP, she was a strategic communications adviser to many international organizations including USIP, the International Crisis Group, CARE, and the IWMF. Sonenshine served in various capacities at the White House during the Clinton administration, including transition director and director of foreign policy planning for the NSC. She was an editorial producer of ABC News’ Nightline, where she worked for more than a decade. She was also an off-air reporter at the Pentagon for ABC’s World News Tonight and is the recipient of 10 News Emmy Awards for coverage of international affairs.
Click here to register

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Accelerating Defense Innovation: Lessons from Silicon Wadi Atlantic Council
Time: 10:30-11:45am
Location: Atlantic Council1030 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005 (map) Room: 12th Floor (West Tower)
Please join the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security for a Captains of Industry event with Elbit Systems of America President and CEO Raanan Horowitz, which will take place at the Atlantic Council headquarters on October 20, 2015 from 10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has called for the defense establishment to engage the hub of commercial innovation, Silicon Valley, to fuel a third offset strategy. As befits the “start-up nation,” Israel has been comingling its defense and commercial technologies over many years. Elbit Systems has played an important part in this approach to leveraging commercial technology for military innovation. Raanan Horowitz will share his company’s experience of accelerating innovation in partnership with Israel’s Silicon Wadi in front of an Atlantic Council audience.

Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America’s Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes – Cato Institute
Time: noon-1:30pm
Location: Cato Institute1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 (map)
Featuring the authors Ted Galen Carpenter, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute; and Malou Innocent, Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; with comments by Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor Emeritus of History and International Relations, Boston University; and Jacob Heilbrunn, Editor, The National Interest; moderated by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute. Liberal democracies such as the United States face an acute dilemma in the conduct of foreign relations. American national interests sometimes require cooperation with repressive, corrupt, or otherwise odious regimes. But close working relationships with autocratic regimes should not be undertaken lightly. Such partnerships risk compromising, or even making a mockery of, America’s values of democratic governance, civil liberties, and free markets. In their new book, Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America’s Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes, Cato Institute senior fellow Ted Galen Carpenter and Cato adjunct scholar Malou Innocent contend that U.S. officials have amassed a less-than-stellar record of grappling with ethical dilemmas. When are alliances with “friendly dictators” necessary for America’s security? When are such alliances a gratuitous betrayal of fundamental American values? And when is the situation a close call? Please join the authors and two distinguished commentators for a spirited discussion of these and other relevant questions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Master’s Open House
Learn more about the GMU School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs Masters’ programs on Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at 6:30pm at our Arlington Campus, Founders Hall, Room 126. This informational sessional will discuss our Master’s programs ranging from Public Administration, Biodefense, Political Science, Health and Medical Policy, etc.

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Cyber Intelligence and Security after the OPM BreachInstitute of World Politics
Time: 11:30am
Location: Institute of World Politics1521 16th Street NW Washington, DC (map)
The data breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that exposed millions of records about current, former and aspiring national security clearance holders has underscored the value of an effective cyber intelligence program. As the federal government and its industry partners act to remediate the short- and long-term consequences, panelists will discuss the importance of cyber intelligence and other security measures to address vulnerabilities potentially exploited by the breach, such as social engineering, and mitigate the considerable post-breach risks that remain.
Register here

Friday, October 23, 2015
Grand Strategy: National Security Doctrines and National Security Strategy, past, present and futureInstitute of World Politics
Time: 4:30pm
Location: Institute of World Politics1521 16th Street NW Washington, DC (map)
Dr. Lamont Colucci has experience as a diplomat with the U.S. Dept. of State and is today an Associate Professor and Chairman of Politics and Government at Ripon College. His primary area of expertise is U.S. national security and U.S. foreign policy. At Ripon, he is the coordinator for the National Security Studies program and teaches courses on national security, foreign policy, intelligence, terrorism, and international relations. He has published a book entitled Crusading Realism: The Bush Doctrine and American Core Values After 9/11, and was contributing author of another book entitled The Day That Changed Everything: Looking at the Impact of 9/11 at the End of the Decade. In 2012, he finished a two volume series entitled The National Security Doctrines of the American Presidency: How they Shape our Present and Future. In 2012, he became the Fulbright Scholar in Residence at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, Austria. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a doctorate in politics from the University of London, England. In 2007 he was the recipient of Ripon’s Severy Excellence in Teaching award and in 2010 the Underkofler Outstanding Teaching Award. In 2015 he received the national Significant Sig award of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. Dr. Colucci is also an occasional columnist for the Washington TimesNational ReviewWeekly Standard, and Defense News. He is a weekly columnist for U.S. News and World Report. He is also Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs for the American Foreign Policy Council and is Advisor in National Security and Foreign Affairs, to the NATO-based Conference of Defence Associations Institute. He served as founding interim Director for the Center for Politics at Ripon College. You can find out more at lamontcolucci.com.
Register here 

Leading at the Nexus of Development and DefenseCenter for Strategic and International Studies
Time: 10-11:30am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036(map)
Please save the date for an armchair conversation with General John F. Kelly. General Kelly will discuss his career serving in the United States Marine Corps and the defining challenges he faced in maintaining U.S. and regional security. He will share his experience working in areas of conflict and supporting U.S. defense policy through effective development efforts. General Kelly is currently commander of U.S. Southern Command. A four star general, Kelly presided over much of the U.S. involvement in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, later returning to command Multi-National Force-West. He is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and holds numerous military awards and honors, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. Following his service in the Persian Gulf War, he served as the Commandant’s Liaison Officer to the U.S. House of Representatives. Kelly received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts in Boston and graduated from the National War College in 1995.
This event is part of CSIS’ s ongoing ‘Chevron Forum on Development’ series, which seeks to highlight innovative approaches to global development.
Please RSVP to ChevronForum@csis.org .

The Candidates on Nonproliferation – Part II

The Candidates on Nonproliferation – Part 2
By Greg Mercer

I initially set out to write this as a candidate-by-candidate look at what the 2016 crop had to say about an issue near and dear to Biodefense students’ hearts: nonproliferation.  As it turns out, though, not many candidates have well-developed stances on highly specific policy issues (or any issues, depending on how serious a candidate we’re talking about) more than a year from the general election.  Lucky for us though, there’s been a major nonproliferation news event to drive the foreign policy debate: the Iran nuclear deal.  So this is a rundown of what’s been said and being said about nonproliferation and WMD policy in the 2016 election.

 See part 1 here.

So I’m continuing to take a look at what the 2016 election looks like for nonproliferation.

As with the previous post, Republicans in general tend to oppose the Iran deal, but let’s take a closer look at some more candidates, and move a little more toward the fringes.

Rand Paul:
Rand Paul opposes the Iran deal (surprise), and the section of his website devoted to Iran echoes Bibi Netanyahu’s “bad deal” language.  Let me tell you though, as far as issues pages go, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Not only does he have the most extensive set of issues pages I’ve seen so far, Rand’s camp has helpfully noted specific quotes, sources, and bill numbers for his voting record.  I don’t even have to go on THOMAS.  Thanks, Rand site devs!  For example, the site notes that he was a co-sponsor of The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which attempted to challenge the administration’s negotiations.  Rand didn’t always used to be this way, though.  Having gradually (and recently, not-so-gradually) drifted from a libertarian stance into one more in line with mainstream conservative thinking, he’s changed his tune a bit on Iran.  Bloomberg chronicles his shift from cautioning against military action and arguing that Iran didn’t pose a threat, in 2007, to his current position.  Rand doesn’t have much else to say about nonproliferation.   He does say that Republican hawkishness contributed to the rise of ISIS, though, which caused him to get into a fight with Sean Hannity.

Carly Fiorina:
If Rand Paul has a great website, then Carly Fiorina has the worst one yet. Her issues page isn’t accessible from the home page, and when you do find it, it’s all videos.  Carly uses some of these videos to underscore just how anti-Iran deal she is.  During the September debate, she said that if elected president, “I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel. The second, to the supreme leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system.”  So far, she hasn’t had much to say about nonproliferation or biological weapons beyond the Iran deal.  Like Donald Trump, she’s compared the negotiating diplomatic deals to business deals, citing her experience as CEO of computer giant Hewlett-Packard.  There’s a catch there, though, and it’s one worth reading about in full other than my snarky at-a-glance version:  according to Bloomberg View, while she was CEO, “Hewlett-Packard used a European subsidiary and a Middle East distributor to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of printers and other computer equipment to Iran,” circumventing the sanctions regime.  While likely not illegal, it’s certainly been controversial.

Ben Carson:
Ben Carson’s security platform is centered on countering “Russian transgressions” and supporting Israel.  The Russia issues page features pictures of scary missiles but doesn’t explicitly mention nuclear policies.  Carson argues that Russian aggression has a destabilizing effect on Ukraine and the Middle East, ultimately threatening Europe.  He calls on the US to lead NATO and non-NATO allies “from a position of strength” and that “all options should remain on the table” when dealing with Putin.  No specific mention of nuclear weapons, but “all” is pretty broad.  On Israel, he promises unwavering support, but offers no details to this end.  To most conservative voters though, this can be read as anti-Iran deal, at least.  Carson offered another interesting claim about nonproliferation, though.  In the August debate, Carson said, “You know, Ukraine was a nuclear-armed state. They gave away their nuclear arms with the understanding that we would protect them. We won’t even give them offensive weapons.”  The excellent Politifact evaluated this claim, and concluded that it isn’t really accurate for two reasons: first, Ukraine wasn’t “nuclear-armed” because while Soviet warheads briefly resided there following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine would never have been able to launch them (according to Harvard nuclear specialist Matthew Bunn), and that while the US agreed to respect the sovereignty of- and not attack- Ukraine, it didn’t formally offer a guarantee of protection.  Implicit in Carson’s statement is the argument that Ukraine, if it had retained (and, hypothetically controlled) the nuclear weapons left after the collapse, wouldn’t have been subject to Russian aggression.  This paints Carson as a strong believer in nuclear deterrence.

Week In DC: Events 10.12-10.16.2015

Monday 10.12.2015

Lebanon’s Deepening Domestic Crisis – Brookings Institution
Time: 5:30pm
Location: Brookings Institution1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036(map)
Over the past month thousands of Lebanese protesters have taken to the streets chanting ‘revolution,’ starting an unprecedented and long overdue mobilization against the country’s sectarian political system and dysfunctional government. What became known as the ‘You Stink’ protest campaign, ignited by a garbage crisis, has widened to reflect anger at the entrenched political elites and the state’s failure to provide basic services. Furthermore, Lebanon has been without a president ever since the term of former President Michel Suleiman ended on May 25, 2014, despite U.N. officials and allied governments repeatedly urging the Lebanese parliament to elect a new leader. Meanwhile, regional turmoil has put Lebanon under enormous stress with the influx of over a million Syrian refugees, who now account for more than 20 percent of the population. The involvement of a number of Lebanese parties in the Syrian conflict and the deeply divided attitudes toward the Syrian regime make it extremely difficult to reach any agreement, even on domestic issues. The Brookings Doha Center cordially invites you to attend a public policy discussion entitled ‘Lebanon’s Deepening Domestic Crisis.’ In light of the political gridlock in Beirut, this event will focus on the prospects for peace and security in Lebanon amid the internal conflicts. Will the protest campaign pave the way for revamping Lebanon’s political system? Can Lebanon continue to avoid getting engulfed by Syria’s conflict? IMPORTANT: Due to limited available space, this event requires pre-registration. To reserve a place for yourself and/or a guest, please RSVP with the names of those who wish to attend to dohacenter@brookings.edu. Please arrive fifteen minutes before the event’s start time.

Will the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Live Up to Its Promise? – Cato Institute
Time: 8:30am-5:20pm
Location: Cato Institute1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 (map)
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations were launched to great fanfare in mid-2013 with the pronouncement that a comprehensive deal would be reached by the end of 2014 on a “single tank of gas.” But after more than two years and 10 rounds of negotiations, an agreement is nowhere in sight and substantive differences remain between the parties. Despite a retreat from the original level of ambition, skepticism is mounting on both sides of the Atlantic that a deal will be reached anytime soon. What are the prospects for fulfilling the promise of a comprehensive trade and investment deal between the United States and the European Union? What exactly is under negotiation, and what is the strategy for advancing those negotiations? Would it make sense to exclude sacred-cow issues that will only bog down the negotiations? Is it wise to continue pursuing a single comprehensive deal for all issues on the table, or is it better to aim for a sequence of smaller agreements? Should a deal include other closely integrated countries, such as Canada, Mexico, and Turkey? How will TTIP affect the multilateral trading system, relations with the BRICS countries, and prospects for developing countries?

Tuesday 10.13.2015

Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum -Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies 
Time: 9:30am
Location: Johns Hopkins SAIS – Nitze Building1740 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036(map)
With more than half the world’s population living in cities for the first time, urban violence has become an increasingly significant problem. From Karachi to San Pedro Sula, urban centers grapple with security threats from within their own populations. In the face of challenges that can include rapid population growth, increased pressure on fragile infrastructure, limited resources such as energy and water, and high levels of  unemployment, city governments are facing substantial challenges maintaining security. This has enabled insurgencies, terrorist organizations, criminal gangs and syndicates to operate more freely. This forum will explore work being to confront urban violence holistically, looking at both urban development programming and youth-centered violence reduction initiatives in cities around the world.

U.S. Launch of the 2015 World Nuclear Industry Status Report – Heinrich Boell Foundation
Time: noon-1:30pm
Location: National Resources Defense Council 1152 15th Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC (map)
The Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) are delighted to invite you to a luncheon discussion with Mycle Schneider, the lead author of the new World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015 provides a comprehensive overview of nuclear power plant data, including information on operation, production and construction. The report assesses the status of new build programs in current nuclear countries as well as in potential newcomer countries. This year’s edition of the report provides an analysis of nuclear plant construction starts over time, describes delays in Generation III+ reactor projects (including the EPR, AP1000, AES 2006), looks at the history and development status of advanced reactors, and gives an update of ongoing issues from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

Mycle Schneider, convening lead author of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report, is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), based at Princeton University, and is a laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Mycle is the Coordinator of the Seoul International Energy Advisory Council (SIEAC) and has served as advisor on nuclear energy issues to the French Environment Minister, the Belgian Minister for Energy and Sustainable Development, the German Environment Ministry, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Wednesday 10.14.2015

George Mason University PhD Information Session
Time: 7pm
Location: Fairfax Campus, Merten Hall, Room 1201, see directions
Drawing on world-class original research and high-level practical experience, our faculty prepare students to be creative and effective participants in policy-making and political discourse.  By working closely with these faculty to conduct research that influences decisions at the local, national and international levels, our PhD graduates emerge prepared for high-powered careers in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Beyond the Numbers: Inside the Syrian Refugee Crisis  –Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Time: 4-6pm
Location: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW (Use 15th St., NW Entrance) (map)
Join The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s LINK program for young professionals, in cooperation with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, as we explore the Syrian refugee crisis: What caused this humanitarian disaster? How has the world responded? What can the international community do to address it? Our distinguished panelists will present the perspectives of diplomats, journalists, non-governmental representatives, and analysts from Syria, the United States, and Europe who have struggled with this tragic situation.

Thursday 10.15.2015

ISIS, the Syrian Refugee Crisis and International Response –Virginia International University
Time: 2:30-5:30pm
Location: Virginia International University 4401 Village Drive (rt. 29 opposite Wegman’s) Faifax, VA 22030 (map)
Room: Conference Hall
The Center for Democracy and International Affairs -VIU is hosting a Forum and Discussion on the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Global Humanitarian Response. The event will take place on October 15, Thursday, from 2:30pm till 5:30pm and will feature: political analysts discussing the causes of the conflict and the current configuration of international players, including the newest role to be played by Russia; a representative from the UN Refugee Agency; and representatives of both Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services involved in the process of resettlement. The forum will provide for an open discussion, networking, and working group formations. It is free and open to the public: http://www.viu.edu/cdia/blog.html?image=true&feedid=0   Please RSPV to CDIA@VIU.edu

Since 2011, almost 12 million people, equivalent to half of the Syrian population, have been displaced by the conflict, including 7.6 million displaced inside Syria. The forum  will discuss the causes of the conflict in Syria and the larger Middle East, the evolution of the refugee Crisis, and the response of key international and US humanitarian organizations.

State Department Career Info Session- Thursday Luncheon Group
Time: 6-7:30pm
Location: The U.S. Capitol Visitor CenterFirst St NE, Washington, DC 20515 (map)
Room: HVC-201AB
The panel will discuss job opportunities in a wide array of substantive areas, including

  • Civil Service Positions,
  • Foreign Service Positions,
  • The Rangel, Pickering and Payne Graduate Fellowship Programs,
  • The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program,
  • Internships and Student Positions, and
  • The mission and contributions of the State Department to global peace and prosperity.

RSVP at ThursdayLuncheonGroupEvents@gmail.com

Friday 10.16.2015

Ten years of the Renewable Fuel Standard: What’s been the impact on energy and the environment? – Brookings Institution
Time: 10:30-11:45am
Location: Brookings Institution1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036(map)
Ten years ago, Congress established the first federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires that gasoline and diesel sold in the U.S. contain minimum amounts of renewable fuels, such as corn ethanol and biodiesel. The mandate was meant to spur innovation in renewable fuel use, but the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly used its authority to decrease the required amounts because of limited productive capacity.Join the Economic Studies program at Brookings on October 16 as we convene an expert panel to discuss the effect of the RFS on prices for both fuels and food, whether the RFS is having an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and if the statutory levels for future years are realistic or if they need to be revised further. The event will be webcast. Join the conversation via Twitter at #Biofuel.