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.


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
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 .

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 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:   Please RSPV to

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.


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.

Pandora Report 10.9.15

Happy Friday! Since we’ve made it through Hurricane Joaquin, let’s celebrate with some biodefense news by way of air defense, Ebola, some amazing original work from the GMU Biodefense clan, and all the fun in between. Fun fact: On October 8, 2001, President George W. Bush established the Office of Homeland Security. Let’s start your weekend off right with some zombies, shall we?

Zombies & Air Defense?
With Halloween around the corner and The Walking Dead about to premiere, it’s time for some zombies – Pentagon style! Ever heard of JLENS? This $2.7 billion radar blimp was initially designed to act as an early warning system for low-flying weapons, drones, etc. Unfortunately, this system has been plagued with problems (pun intended) as it failed to detect the low-flying aircraft piloted by Florida postal worker, Douglas Hughes. We’ll let that slide since JLENS wasn’t deemed operational that day but that hasn’t stopped many from calling it a “zombie” program, meaning it’s “costly, ineffectual, and seemingly impossible to kill”. Check out the LA Times investigation into whether this defense technology is really “performing well right now” as claimed by Raytheon.

2016 Presidential Candidates on Nonproliferation- Part I

GMU’s Greg Mercer has churned out another fascinating commentary in a new series related to what 2016 presidential candidates are saying about nonproliferation. His series will pull together candidate stances and comments to take an in-depth look into the role nonproliferation is taking in this race. Greg notes, “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.” This week we’ll be looking at the Republican Party, so make sure to check in over the next few months to see how everyone’s stance has changed or strengthened.

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Spike in Pakistan
Pakistan is currently seeing a spike in their cases of CCHF with the most recent death of a patient in Quetta at the Fatima Jinnah Chest and General Hospital. The death toll is now 3 in 3 days and a total of 15 patient mortalities this year. There are 9 other CCHF patients under observation and treatment at the regional hospitals. The WHO’s Diseases Early Warning System (DEWS) in Pakistan tracks these seasonal spikes in hopes to also prevent its spread. The concerning aspect is the high amount of deaths this year so far when compared to other years.

Iran’s Shifting Preference?
How lucky are we to have two amazing GMU Biodefense commentaries this week? Scott McAlister is discussing the Iranian nuclear deal and the potential consequences. He hammers out a topic we biodefense folks are all too familiar with – dual-use and the hiding-in-plain-sight reality of so many programs. Scott points out that, “the scary thing about biological and chemical weapons programs is their ability to hide in plain sight.  Due the dual use of much of today’s biotechnological advancements, an offensive weapons program can be disguised as a facility to create vaccines or research centers for diseases with minimal effort.” Take a look at his notes on nuclear weapon capabilities and Iranian perspective on biological weapons.

Tacit Knowledge & Biological Weapons Proliferation
On a scale of 1-10, having your research cited during a meeting of the State Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons, is pretty much a 12. What can we say, GMU Biodefense professor, Dr. Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, did just that! At the meeting of experts in August, the State parties met to discuss the field of science and technology while emphasizing tacit  knowledge in relation to bioweapon proliferation. When discussing tacit knowledge, the U.S. noted at the conference, “the concept of communal or collective tacit knowledge has been explored extensively, particularly in the work of Donald Mackenzie and Graham Spinardi, who examined its role in the context of nuclear weapons creation, and Kathleen Vogel and Sonia Ben Ouagrham- Gormley, who examined it with respect to biological weapons creation.” During this meeting, the role and relevance of tacit knowledge as a risk modulator was heavily discussed, pointing to its corresponding role of increasing the risk of bioweapon proliferation.

Bioweapons for Dummies?
Speaking of tacit knowledge and the rise of the biotechnology revolution… Zian Liu from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists goes through the five steps of building a biological weapon to address the barriers to weaponization. Broaching the topic of “biohacking”, Zian points to the concern within the biodefense industry related to synthetic biology and fourth generation bioweapons. From ordering the synthetic genes to recently published research that discusses the developments of genetic modification, this commentary hits on the very real barriers that a fourth-year bioengeneering undergraduate student identifies -even with the available tools. Between the need for increased regulations on synthetic DNA and the dual-use concerns, Zian notes that “novice biologists are not likely to construct advanced weapons any time soon.”

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Stories You May Have Missed:

  • Guinea outbreak region goes a full week without a new Ebola case! We’re all holding our breaths in hope this means the outbreak is nearing an end in this hard-hit region. Sierra Leone has reached 3 weeks (a full incubation period) of no new cases and the last healthcare worker infection was back in August. The WHO and local public health workers are still maintaining door-to-door case finding efforts and contact tracing.
  • PPD Awarded Contracts with US Army & BARDA – Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) was just awarded two US government contracts to address health outcomes in armed forces and test the efficacy of the national strategic stockpile’s supply of avian influenza vaccine.
  • Findings of the 7th WHO Ebola Emergency Committee Meeting – Last week this committee met to discuss the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. They provided updates and furthering advisement regarding the disease and international travel as 34 countries “continue to enact measures that are disproportionate to the risks posed.”

The Candidates on Nonproliferation – Part 1

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.

So over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to take a look at what the 2016 election looks like for nonproliferation.  I’m learning a lot about the way candidate’s structure their websites.  And no, I don’t want to donate.

I’ll start first with the Republicans.  There are 15 of them right now (plus a handful of fringe/joke candidates).  Some of them have extensive platforms, others don’t.  Most of them don’t have much to say about nonproliferation.  Fair.  But the Republican Party is unified, though, in its stern opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, as evidenced by the recent attempt to block the deal in Congress.  What the candidates think about nonproliferation is also likely a function of the faith they place in the UN and international institutions.  Those who trust those mechanisms will probably push treaties as the best counterproliferation tool.  Those who don’t will probably call for strong deterrence.


Marco Rubio: 

Marco Rubio lumps defense and foreign policy together in this video staged to look like an interview, where he says that he aims not to make America popular, but safe, and pledges to rebuild the military.  He doesn’t talk about deterrence or proliferation in that video, but he does devote two entire sections of his “Issues” page to the Iran deal, and he alludes to nuclear proliferation in his hour-long talk at the Council on Foreign Relations (helpfully, the website provided a transcript): “The president’s proposed deal with Tehran will likely lead to a cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and could force Israel to take bold action to defend itself, making war with Iran even more likely.”  This interesting statement links the Iran deal with going to war with Iran (backing up Israel in an all-out war is a foregone conclusion, it seems).  Huh.

It’s safe to say Marco Rubio is anti-Iran deal, but right now he hasn’t spoken extensively about nonproliferation efforts beyond advocating for American strength in the international community.


Jeb Bush:

Thanks to some name association, Jeb Bush tends to get asked about the Iraq War frequently.  The war did have quite a lot to do with nonproliferation, given the controversy (at the time) of whether or not Saddam Hussein possessed or was attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction.  Jeb has praised his brother’s actions (although he’s said that “knowing what we know now,” he would not have gone into Iraq).  Jeb is still thinking about Iraq, because his defense issues section is titled “Defeating ISIS.”  Fair enough; that’s pretty direct and avoids Marco Rubio’s blog-like setup that made me comb through three different pages.  (I think the content of the page was cobbled together from a few different sources because it switches back and forth between “ISIS” and “Islamic State,” and if you’ve read me before you’ll know that’s fascinating to me.)  On this issue page, Jeb links the Iran nuclear deal with Iran’s support for Assad and Hezbollah, and more or less explicitly promises to dismantle the deal, if elected.  He doesn’t have much else to say about nonproliferation.


Ted Cruz:

Ted Cruz’s website offers “proven record” sections instead of “issues” pages.  While they’re mostly bullet points on things he’s said in the past, it’s not a recycled speech so that’s nice.  Among the ways Cruz plans to create a “stronger, safer America,” Cruz specifically notes his opposition to the Iran deal.  Cruz also links ending sanctions with locking in military action as the only way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and calls on all of the candidates to promise to repudiate the deal.  So far, that’s not a controversial stance among Republicans.  He’s also agreed that the Iraq War was a “mistake.”  Cruz has little else to say about nonproliferation, but he’s taken a stance on another interesting biodefense issue: He authored legislation to give military service members deployed to provide aid during the 2014 Ebola outbreak the same tax benefits that service members in combat zones receive.  So far, both the House and Senate versions of this bill have only been referred to their respective committees, but it’s an interesting point that hasn’t seen too much discussion.

Week in DC Events: 10.5-10.9.2015

Come listen and chat with Dr. David R. Franz, former commander of USAMRIID, about balancing research and regulations when it comes to dual-use!
Date & Time: Monday, October 5, 2015, 4:30-6pm
Location: Hanover Hall, L-003 George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, see map
Dr. Franz was the Chief Inspector on three United Nations Special Commission biological warfare inspection missions to Iraq and served as technical advisor on long-term monitoring.  He also served as a member of the first two US-UK teams that visited Russia in support of the Trilateral Joint Statement on Biological Weapons and as a member of the Trilateral Experts’ Committee for biological weapons negotiations.  He previously served as member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). Dr. Franz currently serves on several committees including the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control and the National Research Council Board on Life Sciences. Dr. Franz is a leader in the areas of cooperative threat reduction and health security and an expert in the development of U.S. regulations for biological threat reduction and biological security.  Dr. Franz will discuss the history and current debates related to U.S. and international regulations for select agents, dual use research of concern, and gain-of-function experiments.

Innovation and the Defense Industrial Base

Heritage Foundation

Date & Time: Monday, October 5, 2015, 11:30am-1pm
Location Heritage Foundation214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 (map)
Defense reform sparks a great deal of debate in Congress, in the Pentagon, and across Washington. When it comes to acquisition and innovation, senior Pentagon leaders have heavily invested in outreach to Silicon Valley and emerging technology companies. The Department of Defense must do a better job of acquiring innovative technology, but how does this drive for innovation affect the defense industrial base? In the first of a series of public events on defense reform, this program will feature opening comments by Dr. Jerry McGinn followed by a panel discussion on this critical component of our national defense industrial base.

Analyzing and Assessing Saudi Arabian Defense Strategy National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
Date & Time: Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 10am-noon
Location: Rayburn House Office Building45 Independence Ave SW Washington, DC 20515 (map) Gold Room (2168)

The featured specialist will be HRH Navy Captain (Ret.) Prince Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal Al Sa’ud – President, Al Joshan Security Services; Former Commander, Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) Counter-Insurgency Special Operations Task Force; Designer and Inaugural Commandant, RSNF Special Forces Training Center. Serving as context provider and moderator will be Dr. John Duke Anthony – Founding President and CEO, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; and Member, U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and Subcommittee on Sanctions.

Open or Closed Borders? Understanding Europe’s Migration Challenge
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Date & Time: Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 11am-noon
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036(map)

Please join us for a discussion featuring Thomas Zwiefelhofer, Deputy Prime Minister of Liechtenstein, and UNHCR Regional Representative for the USA and the Caribbean Shelly Pitterman as they assess Europe’s ongoing migration crisis and recent decisions taken by European leaders on border control and asylum policies. Although not a member of the European Union, the Principality of Liechtenstein is a member of the Schengen Agreement enabling border-free travel among 26 European countries, and a signatory to the Dublin Convention regulating Europe’s open border policies. The migration crisis is presenting enormous challenges to Schengen countries. As tens of thousands of migrants continue to arrive across Europe, individual states are taking disparate approaches. While some are increasing their refugee quotas, others are sealing their borders. Deputy Prime Minister Zwiefelhofer leads the ministries of Home Affairs, Justice and Economic Affairs. As Minister of Home Affairs he is in charge of border issues and will discuss how the greater European community can promote unity to address the crisis while minimizing internal clashes. The conversation will examine the future of the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Convention and explore the role of international agencies such as the UNHCR and foreign countries in support of European partners during this crisis.

Policy & Politics of the Iran Agreement
Georgetown University
Date & Time: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 4:30-6pm
Location: Georgetown University37 St NW and O St NW, Washington, DC (map)

Joseph Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. He is the author of the new book Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late, Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons and Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats. He is a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s International Security Advisory Board and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Switzerland’s Good Offices: Protection of Interests in Cuba, Iran and Beyond
Women’s Foreign Policy Group
Time & Date: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 6pm
Location: Thursday, Oct 8, 2015
6:00 pm

H.E. Martin Dahinden assumed his position as Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States in November 2014. Prior to that, he served as Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (2008 – 2014) and headed the Directorate of Corporate Management of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (2004 – 2008).
During his long career in the Swiss diplomatic service, Dahinden has served as Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, as a member of the Swiss Delegation to GATT, at the Embassy of Switzerland in Paris, as Deputy to the Swiss Ambassador in Nigeria, and in a temporary posting at the Swiss Mission to the UN in New York. In addition, he worked in the FDFA’s Service for Disarmament Policy and Nuclear Issues, as Head of the OSCE Service of the Directorate of Political Affairs, and held the position of Deputy Head of the OSCE Coordination Unit during the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE in 1996. The following year, he was sent abroad as Deputy Head of the Swiss Mission to NATO in Brussels. Dahinden holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Zurich. Before joining the diplomatic service, he worked as a postgraduate assistant at the university, and was then employed by a bank and a publishing house.
WFPG Members — $40          Non-Members — $60   Space is limited. Advance registration is required. Some parking is available.
Event proceeds support WFPG mentoring activities and programs.

Migrant States, Mobile Economies: 
Rethinking the Political in Contemporary Turkey

Date & Time: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 3:30-8pm
Location: George Mason University, Merten Hall 1201

This event brings together scholars from anthropology and political science to interrogate the conceptual relationship between state formation and capital accumulation as related but distinct technologies of power in contemporary Turkey.  From gold traffic between Turkey and Iran and smuggling economies in Turkey’s Kurdistan to the historical development of energy infrastructures and im/mobilities across the Turkey-Syria border, the authors aim to chronicle the shifting and transnational operations of economic and political power. By exploring states of migrancy as well as economies of mobility in conjunction with state formation and capital accumulation, Migrant States & Mobile Economies aims to rethink the political in both political economy and political theory through the historiography and ethnography of contemporary Turkey.


Producing More with Less Through Partnerships
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Date & Time: Friday, October 9, 2015, 9-11am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036(map)

Join the CSIS Global Food Security Project and the Royal Danish Embassy for a half-day event focused on how to produce more with less through partnerships for agricultural development. Harnessing the power of agriculture to feed a growing planet requires a multi-stakeholder approach that moves beyond typical public-private partnership rhetoric and has sustainable, deep relationships along entire supply chains. Solutions must include low-cost, innovative technologies that help farmers maximize production and minimize resources.

This event will provide an interactive forum in which leaders from business, non-governmental organizations, academia, and government agencies will come together to explore how to best tackle dwindling natural resources in a world of ever-increasing demand, and how to scale up partnerships to catalyze efficient production.

Pandora Report 10.2

All this rain and grey weather (at least in DC) makes us want to curl up with a good book and luckily, we’ve got just the reading list! This week we’re sharing some top-notch work by our phenomenal faculty and alumni for you to enjoy. Earlier this week, straight out of a James Bond movie, Elon Musk presented Tesla’s Model X and its Bioweapon Defense Mode. Google had its 2015 Science Fair and a pretty amazing high school student took home top honors for her work on Ebola. Did I mention Kansas is prepping for the zombie apocalypse? Needless to say, there was a lot going on this week in the world of biodefense, so let’s venture down the rabbit hole….

 Zombie Preparedness Month Starts for Kansas 
I’m thinking we may need to take a class trip to Kansas since Governor, Sam Brownback, will be signing a proclamation to officially designate October as “Zombie Preparedness Month”! Brownback’s rationale is to emphasize preparedness in any form, stating, “If you’re prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for anything. Although an actual zombie apocalypse will never happen, the preparation for such an event is the same as for any disaster: make a disaster kit, have a plan, and practice it.” During Zombie Preparedness Month, state emergency management services will have activities and information for residents to help get their preparedness on. They’ll also be using social media to engage people people on these topics. The one thing we’ve learned in biodefense, Gov. Brownback, is to never say never!

Connecticut Teen Wins Google Science Award By Developing Affordable Ebola Test
High school junior, Olivia Hallisey, just took home the Google Science Fair top prize for developing an affordable and easy Ebola test in her project, “Ebola Assay Card”, which quickly (we’re talking 30 minutes quick!) detects the virus and doesn’t require refrigeration. Each test only costs $25 and picks up antigens on photo paper. Hallisey summarizes, “In this new device, that is stable and stored at room temperature, 30µl drops of water were used to dissolve silk-embedded reagents, initiating a timed-flow towards a center detection zone, where a positive (colored) result confirmed the presence of 500pg/ml Ebola(+)control antigens in 30min, at a cost of $25,” Hallisey hopes this project will encourage other girls to pursue their passions in science. Hallisey is truly an inspiration and we tip our hats to her passion for solving world problems while encouraging her peers!

Let’s Talk Dual-Use!
Come listen and chat with Dr. David R. Franz, former commander of USAMRIID, about balancing research and regulations when it comes to dual-use!
Date & Time: Monday, October 5, 2015, 4:30-6pm
Location: Hanover Hall, L-003 George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, see map

​Dr. Franz was the Chief Inspector on three United Nations Special Commission biological warfare inspection missions to Iraq and served as technical advisor on long-term monitoring.  He also served as a member of the first two US-UK teams that visited Russia in support of the Trilateral Joint Statement on Biological Weapons and as a member of the Trilateral Experts’ Committee for biological weapons negotiations.  He previously served as member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). Dr. Franz currently serves on several committees including the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control and the National Research Council Board on Life Sciences. Dr. Franz is a leader in the areas of cooperative threat reduction and health security and an expert in the development of U.S. regulations for biological threat reduction and biological security.  Dr. Franz will discuss the history and current debates related to U.S. and international regulations for select agents, dual use research of concern, and gain-of-function experiments.

1977 H1N1 Influenza Reemergence Reveals Gain-of-Function Hazards
Dr. Martin Furmanski discusses the gain-of-function (GoF) research hazards in relation to the 1977 H1N1 strain and it’s laboratory origins. Highlighting a previous article on the GoF debate, Dr. Furmanski notes that “separating the risks of vaccine development from those of basic GoF research is inappropriate, because GoF research seeks to discover antigenic and genomic changes that facilitate human-to-human transmission and/or augment virulence, with the aim of preemptively producing vaccines.” He also notes that while the 1977 H1N1 epidemic originated in a lab and it’s release was unintentional, the culprit laboratory matters little in the GoF debate.

Define Acceptable Cyberspace Behavior
GMU Biodefense alum, Dr. Daniel M. Gerstein, discusses the US-China cybersecurity agreement and the Friday announcement between Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama. The agreement highlights the mutual desire to prevent cybertheft of business secrets. Dr. Gerstein emphasizes that while this agreement is a step in the right direction, it points to larger preparedness and response capability gaps. He notes, “So while a U.S.-China agreement is a welcome step, it also underscores the greater issues facing the United States, and indeed the international community, in this largely ungoverned space.” Dr. Gerstein highlights the necessity to define cyberspace boundaries, especially as there are delays in DHS security system deployments while US vulnerabilities continue to develop.

Implementation for the US Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern
As of September 24, 2015, all institutions and USG funded agencies are now required to comply with the policies. Agencies now must have “a mechanisms in place to evaluate research that is potentially Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC).” Institutions must also organize an Institutional Review Entity (IRE) to review and manage compliance with these requirements.

Dr. Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley’s  new book, Barriers to Bioweapons, received glowing reviews in the latest issue of Perspective on Politics. Her work, which is a staple for biodefense courses, and particularly this text, focusses on the perception of risk and lethality of bioweapons while addressing the realities of these assumptions. Ouagrham-Gormley discusses the key role of tacit versus explicit knowledge in the development and dissemination barriers for bioweapons. “The author identifies important factors internal to a weapons-development program- talented individuals and cohesive groups, corporate culture, communities of practice, organization structure- as critical nodes or ‘reservoirs’ of knowledge that must be configured to optimize the sharing of ideas and information.” The case studies of Iraqi and South African programs, as well as Aum Shinrikyo, lay the foundation for her points on the role of internal and external variables that can hinder or help a bioweapons program. Whether you’re reading  it for class (GMU Biodefense folks, I’m looking at you!) or you’re looking to brush up on nonproliferation, this book is a well-written and captivating necessity to understand bioweapon development. Did I mention how awesome the cover is?
Our very own GMU Biodefense PhD alum, Dr. Denise N. Baken, has a wonderful new book being released – let’s check it out! Al Qaeda : The Transformation of Terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa examines violence and the way it is marketed by the global terrorism industry.  Authors Denise Baken and Ioannis Mantzikos frame the violence discussion through the prism of its use by Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).Baken and Mantzikos look at the business parameters of violence –its cost, return on investment, efficiency, and effectiveness; They propose a new approach to that violence. One that looks at violence as a controlled commodity that evolved from Al Qaeda’s initial presentation of future possibilities, AQAP exploited those possibilities and ISIS pushed the boundaries of usability.
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