Pandora Report 7.14.2017

Welcome to your weekly dose of all things biodefense! We’ve got a lot of global health security goodies for you this week, so grab a coffee and let’s get our biodefense on!

Canadian Researchers Reconstitute Horsepox With Online DNA Order
Friday was an exciting day in the world of dual-use research of concern (DURC) and biosecurity efforts. News of a Canadian research team and their successful experiment in reconstituting horsepox, brought to light several concerns and gaps within DURC oversight. Led by virologist David Evans, the team was able to synthesize horsepox, a relative of smallpox, which is no longer found in nature. What is really concerning so many about this experiment is that Evans and his team were able to do this with little specialized knowledge, $100,000, and using mail-order DNA fragments. While the study hasn’t been published, it is drawing a lot of attention, not only for the potential that such a process could be applied to smallpox, but also that it failed to trigger more reviews at an institutional level for DURC risks. While the U.S. DURC oversight only applies to federally funded research with fifteen select agents, the Canadian processes cover such research that could disseminate knowledge, regardless of what organism is being used. GMU’s Dr. Gregory Koblentz spoke to Science and discussed DURC oversight, noting, “That should have captured the horsepox synthesis,”. “But as far as I understand, they did not engage in a systematic review of the broader dual-use implications of synthesizing an orthopox virus,” says Koblentz. “I don’t think this experiment should have been done.” Researchers and biosecurity experts around the world are weighing in on this study, especially since its publication is immiment. Tom Inglesby of the Center for Health Security pointed to three serious questions and concerns that this work raises – whether experimental work should be performed for the purpose of demonstrating that a dangerous or destructive  outcome could be created by using biology, how much new detail will be provided in the forthcoming publication regarding the processes for constructing an orthopox virus, and the international biosecurity and biosafety implications regarding the approval process for such experimental work. Perhaps one of the most startling aspects of all the commentary and reports on the horsepox experiment has been Evans own opinion on it all – “Have I increased the risk by showing how to do this? I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe yes. But the reality is that the risk was always there.” Where ever you might stand on the topic of dual-use research, bioethicist Nicholas Evans of the University of Massachusetts (of no relation to David Evans), said it best regarding this debated experiment – “an important milestone, a proof of concept of what can be done with viral synthesis. Aside from the oversight and life science research questions that this experiment brings to light, it also stirs the embers of the fiery debate regarding the destruction of the remaining smallpox stockpiles. The most recent blue ribbon panel review regarding the 2014 NIH variola incident sheds some light on the biosecurity and biosafety challenges of maintaining the stockpiles. You can check out the report of the Blue Ribbon Panel to Review the 2014 Smallpox Virus Incident on the NIH Campus  here. The report goes through the event itself, as well as their findings on the incident, response to the incident, and policy changes. Some of the contributing factors they identified included lack of responsibility for infectious materials in shared space, failure to find all variola samples in the 1980s, lack of complete and regular inventory of potentially hazardous biological materials, lack of policy for abandoned materials, history of NIH lapses following implementation of the Select Agent Regulations, etc.

Summer Workshop – Last Chance to Register!
Our Summer Workshop on Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and Global Health Security starts on Monday, July 17th, which means you still have time to register! Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to discuss everything from Ebola to the concerns surrounding the horsepox dual-use dilemma. This three-day workshop will feature experts across the field of biodefense and will provide participants with a wonderful opportunity for networking and brainstorming!

The Pentagon Weighs the Threat of Synthetic Bioweapons 
While the topic of synbio and DURC is still fresh in our minds, how is the Pentagon considering gene-editing as a potential threat? Sure, we prepare for natural outbreaks and acts of bioterrorism, but how does CRISPR come into the mix? “Pentagon planners are starting to wonder what happens if the next deadly flu bug or hemorrhagic fever doesn’t come from a mosquito-infested jungle or bat-crowded cave. With new gene editing tools like Crispr-Cas9, state enemies could, theoretically, create unique organisms by mixing-and-matching bits of genetic information.” In response to these questions and potential scenarios, deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense, Christian Hassell, is working to get some answers. Hassell and other Pentagon colleages funded a year-long review by the National Academies of Sciences to evaluate the health security threats of synbio. While the review is still going on, a preliminary report is undergoing “classified review” before it can be publicly released. This review will be vital to consider the future of gain-of-function research and other dual-use research of concern in the context of biodefense. “Scientists at the meeting expressed a range of ideas about how the military could best defend against biological threats. Sriram Kosuri runs a synthetic biology lab at UCLA that has developed libraries of DNA sequences that can be developed into new kinds of organisms. While he understands the possibility of a lab-engineered threat, he believes the Pentagon and federal health officials should focus on responding to emerging public health menaces rather than monitoring academic labs that use genetic manipulation tools. ‘There’s a legitimate threat of emerging viruses and we need to be prepared for those things,’ Kosuri said during a break in the meeting. ‘The tiny threat of engineered viruses is miniscule compared to that’.” The challenging part in all of this is that there’s no precedent – this is a new field of threat and risk analysis where historical examples are lacking. Hypothetical situations and response scenarios are the best we can offer, but some of the most valuable tools are the ones we already have, like surveillance or early-stage review processes.

Trump Appoints A Key Bioterrorism Position But Still Leaves Dozens Open
Biological threats aren’t just acts of bioterrorism, but also natural outbreaks or laboratory accidents. If the latest horsepox experiment hasn’t convinced you already, we live in a time of quite unique and diverse biothreats. The spectrum of threats requires an array of agencies and personnel with the skills and resources to prevent and respond to such an event. Unfortunately, we’re currently at a national disadvantage in terms of biodefense. If we look at just one small facet of biothreats (bioterrorism), the U.S. has twenty-six (now twenty-five with the nomination of Kadlec) major and vital roles that are vacant and have not been filled by the Trump administration. While some are awaiting confirmation, there are vacancies without even a nominee like the White House position of Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Department of Health and Human Services is missing a surgeon general and assistant secretary for health (awaiting confirmation), while the U.S. Agency For International Development lacks a nominee for the assistant administrator for global health. There are just a few of the vital positions we rely upon for preventing and responding to acts of bioterrorism. In the wider context of all biological threats, it may not seem like much, but the truth is that these vacancies leave the U.S. in a dangerously vulnerable position. Fortunately, President Trump announced on Monday his plans to nominate Robert P. Kadlec of New York to be the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response. “Currently, Dr. Kadlec is the Deputy Staff Director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Previously, he served as a Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense Policy for President George W. Bush. Dr. Kadlec holds a B.S. from the U.S. Air Force Academy; a M.D. from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and a M.A. in National Security Studies, Georgetown University.” He was also the Director for the Biodefense Preparedness on the Homeland Security Council and aided in drafting the Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act, as well as conducting the biodefense end-to-end assessment (culminating in the National Biodefense Policy for the 21st Century). You can even watch Dr. Kadlec speak on C-SPAN at the Bipartisan Policy Center & Kansas State University forum on biodefense in October of 2016. Dr. Kadlec also directed the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense during their efforts to establish guidance during critical biothreats.

Public Health Preparedness and Response National Snapshot 2017
The CDC just released their 2017 snapshot regarding U.S. public health preparedness and response, noting that “this year has shown us, once again, that we can’t predict the next disaster. But it has also shown us clearly how being prepared protects health and saves lives. Emergencies can devastate a single area, as we saw with Hurricane Matthew, or span the globe, like Zika virus. Disasters from 9/11 to Ebola have demonstrated that we absolutely must have people, strategies, and resources in place before an emergency happens.” Within the snapshot, there are four main sections- Prepare, Respond, Connect, and Looking Forward. Within these sections, you can look at Zika, laboratories as the front lines of America’s health, global training programs, delivering results through partnership, etc. I found the section on Health Security: How Is The U.S. Doing, quite interesting. They note that “as part of the Global Health Security Agenda, teams of international experts travel to countries to report on how well public health systems are working to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks. This process is known as the Joint External Evaluation.” The CDC and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) work together to establish evaluators , etc. Thankfully, this position is in the process of being filled so that these efforts can move forward. While this snapshot captures the range of issues that must be covered in public health preparedness, it also draws attention to how vital the roles in each agency are, which makes the vacancies that much more impacting.

Summary of Key Recommendations – Meeting to Solicit Stakeholder Input on Forthcoming 2017 National Biodefense Strategy
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, supported by the Open Philanthropy Project, recently held a meeting to discuss and consider the landscape of biological threats to the United States and what response measures, programs, and policies are in place, etc. Featuring members from across academia, industry, and government, these subject matter experts weighed in on this honest and frank discussion about U.S. biodefense strengths and weaknesses. There were several recommendations and topics that were discussed but some of the highlights include improving biosurveillance capabilities and laboratory network, performing risk assessments and characterizing threats, strengthening emergency response capabilities including decontamination efforts, prevention-related efforts, building global capacities for bio-threat preparedness and response, etc. They noted several components to improving U.S. biodefense – “internationally, laboratory and surveillance systems for early detection of new outbreaks will be most effective when they serve the needs of countries where they are housed. It will not work for the US to create systems to gather and export data that the US needs from countries if those countries do not get the information themselves and find it to be valuable.” In regards to healthcare system response and strengthening the workforce, the group pointed out that “national and international preparedness for biological threats requires a strong workforce, including public health experts and animal and plant disease scientists. To some degree, success at controlling infectious diseases in the US may have inadvertently resulted in workforce attrition in these fields. Federal support for developing the workforce in these fields is important”.

Strategies for Effective Biological Detection Systems: A Workshop
Don’t miss this workshop put on by the National Academies of Sciences on Monday, September 18th – Tuesday, September 19th. “The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will host a two-day public workshop on strategies for effectively updating biological detection systems. The workshop will explore alternative effective systems that would meet requirements for the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch Program as a biological detection system for aerosolized agents. There will be a focus on systems or strategies that could be deployed by 2027, and enable indoor surveillance and dual-use with day-to-day environmental surveillance that would be of value to the public health and medical communities. There will also be a focus on the integration of improvements and new technologies into the existing biological detection architecture.”

MRSA Screening – Healthcare Prevention Methods for Resistant Germs & Swabbing Our Way To A Solution for Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance is a growing global issue and one of the hotspots for transmission of resistant germs is in hospitals. Given that MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is now a common bacteria in the community and healthcare world, hospitals are working to screen patients to ensure those with MRSA are isolated appropriately and they can stop the spread of infection. GMU biodefense PhD student and infection preventionist Saskia Popescu looks at MRSA screening practices within hospital intensive care units (ICUs) and the cost analysis that can make or break a program. Most hospitals utilize one of two approaches – preemptive universal precautions (isolate all ICU patients until microbiology labs can prove they are negative for MRSA) or targeted isolation (wait until labs come back and then isolate). Each tactic has benefits and weaknesses. Delays in isolation can translate to further spread of MRSA, while longer periods in isolation mean additional costs associated with isolation. A recent study evaluated these very two strategies and the “researchers found that the total cost of preemptive isolation ‘was minimized when a PCR screen was used ($82.51 per patient). Costs were $207.60 more per patient when a conventional culture was used due to the longer turnaround time.’ For ICUs that used targeted isolation, the researchers found that costs would be lowest when chromogenic agar 24-testing was used and not PCR.” What this study highlights is that there is inherently no best practice and that depending on laboratory capability, hospitals may have to plan their MRSA screening and isolation protocols off their microbiology department and cost centers. While hospitals are working to screen patients as a means of responding to microbial resistance, researchers are working against the clock to find solutions. Dr. Adam Roberts is one such innovative microbiologist in the UK who is using an old-school approach to respond to a new problem. Popescu was able to interview him regarding his Swab and Send program, which utilizes citizen scientists from around the world to collect samples that may help produce new antimicrobials from the environment. Roberts is working to utilize environmental samples that hold microorganisms which produce compounds that can help build new antibiotics. “The initiative also helps create a microbial database. For £30, Dr. Roberts’ team will send anyone a handful of sample tubes, a mailing envelope, and directions for what to swab (for example: a nutritious area bacteria would likely grow, likely something unsanitary). After you send back your swabs, you can check out Swab and Send’s Facebook page and see what microbes grew from the samples.” Check out Dr. Roberts’ comments on trends he’s seeing and how even GMU biodefense students are getting in on the swabbing!

Naval Research Lab Find High Prevalence of Antibiotic Resistance in Kenya
Microbial resistance has a way of popping up in even the most unexpected places and projects. The U.S. Navy Research Laboratory (NRL), U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Kenya (USAMRD-K), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and University of Washington, led a joint effort to evaluate intestinal tract bacteria and its resistance in patients across Kenya. The NRL-developed microarray they used is capable of detecting over 200 difference antimicrobial resistant genes. “These results suggest that there is selective pressure for the establishment and maintenance of resistant strains,” said Dr. Chris Taitt, research biologist, NRL Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering. “This is potentially due to agriculture and prophylactic use of antibiotics and further suggests the need for more effective public health policies and infection control measures than those currently implemented.” “Specific to Kenya, widespread use of tetracycline in livestock production, use of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (SXT) and chloramphenicol as first line therapeutics for typhoid, and prophylactic use of SXT in persons exposed to or infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) might have contributed to the high prevalence of resistance.” Surveillance of antimicrobial resistance has been a struggle on an international level however, joint efforts like this are vital to not only establishing global standards and processes, but also highlighting the importance it has for military personnel abroad.

Stories You May Have Missed:

  • Agroterrorism Bill – a new bill was recently introduced by U.S. Rep. David Young (R-IA) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) regarding the preparedness of the U.S. agriculture, food, and veterinary systems. “The Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act requires the DHS Secretary, through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, to ensure food, agriculture, animal, and human health sectors receive appropriate attention and are also integrated into the DHS’s domestic preparedness policy initiatives. The legislation specifically addresses issues seen after the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, which killed millions of turkeys, backyard flocks, and layer hens. It was the deadliest outbreak of avian influenza in Iowa’s history.”
  • What The G-20 Needs To Do To Fight The Next Ebola– The G-20 summit occurred last week in Hamburg and many were hoping for a renewed passion surrounding biological threats. While much attention was focused on climate change, there is also a call for efforts to prevent the next outbreak that will produce a pandemic. “Ultimately, strong health systems depend on communities, health workers, managers, researchers and other local stakeholders being empowered to respond to the inevitable, future waves of change we all face. At Health Systems Global, our members represent these multiple groups. Strengthening everyday resilience demands that we all — governments, donors, researchers, communities, health professionals — work with the resources that health systems already have — their people and relationships. This must be done as we take wider action to confront inequality at all levels. If we do not do that, then efforts to safeguard disease outbreaks will be meaningless.”

Pandora Report 6.2.2017

Good news – the early registration discount for the Pandemics, Bioterrorism, & Global Health Security Summer Workshop has been extended to July 1st! We’ve got a full Pandora Report for you this week, so buckle up, it’s going to be quite a ride!

Worries, Woes, and Realities of Global Health Security
Novel diseases are a near certainty in life (perhaps the saying should be death, taxes, and disease?). Whether it be a natural event, an accidental lab exposure, or by the hand of a bioterrorist, the threat of a pandemic is real. Five infectious disease experts recently convened to discuss the threat of pandemics and what worries them most about future outbreaks. From this meeting they found five issues that truly worry them. First, the lack of trust in scientists and experts. Second, learning lessons from the past. “Tom Frieden said he’s concerned that people won’t study responses to recent pandemics enough to improve responses to future ones. ‘The world has a unique opportunity following Ebola to close gaps, to address blind spots around the world and to become much safer. If we don’t take action very quickly to close the gaps that are being identified, we will lose that opportunity,’ he said.” Third, antibiotic resistance and the continuous spread of resistant bacteria. Fourth, destruction of species and environments that might hold the key to future medical breakthroughs (we’ll be talking more about this one in a bit…). Lastly, they worry about funding for public health workers and that they have the resources needed when fighting epidemics on the front lines. Sadly, a newly established score card on global health found the U.S. lacking. This new measurement tool uses the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) to establish a healthcare access and quality index. Countries that improved in deaths avoidable due to healthcare at their economic level over the last twenty-five years were China, Ethiopia, the Maldive Islands, Peru, etc. “By that standard, the United States improved slightly over the same period, 1990 to 2015. But the American ranking is still so low that it’s ‘an embarrassment, especially considering the U.S. spends $9,000 per person on health care annually,’ said the report’s chief author, Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

Digital-to-Biological Converter  
Synthetic Genomics Inc. is bringing a bit of excitement to the world of synbio via their announcement within a peer-reviewed Nature article describing this new technology. The development of the digital-to-biological converter (DBC) marks a huge step in synthetic biology. The DBC produces biological compounds on-demand and without any human intervention. The unit is fully automated and allows the “user to create complex synthetic DNA in a single process. To demonstrate feasibility, researchers digitally transmitted a file with DNA sequence information to the DBC. The DBC converted that digital sequence into oligonucleotides, and utilized synthetic biology tools developed by Synthetic Genomics such as gene synthesis, error correction, and Gibson Assembly™ methods to create large and complex DNA constructs with high fidelity. Utilizing this DNA as a template, the DBC further produced a series of biological materials without any human intervention, such as RNA, proteins, and viral particles.Biological products created on the DBC included DNA templates for an influenza vaccine, an RNA-based vaccine, antibody polypeptides, and a bacteriophage.” Co-founder J. Craig Venter noted that the DBC is also the first machine of its kind and can receive digital biology in the form of DNA sequences via the internet or radio wave! “The DBC prototype fully integrates and automates processes from oligonucleotide design and synthesis to the production of biopolymers. Development of a smaller and portable DBC could enable reliable production at the point of demand and potentially reduce costs and increase access to bio-production in research laboratories. Finally, with the incorporation of large-scale synthesis technologies, one can envision the DBC being used in industrial settings to enable high-volume production of biologics such as proteins and RNA vaccines.”

ISIS & CRISPR Article Critique Writing Competition
Calling all GMU biodefense students! A recent article came out in Foreign Affairs that made some rather interesting comments regarding CRISPR, bioterrorism, and the threat of synthetic biology. We’re holding a competition for biodefense students (past and present) to write a critique on the article (700-1,000 words) and the winner (selected by Dr. Koblentz) will be featured in Global Biodefense. Please email me with any further questions and submissions ( The due date for this is June 17th. We look forward to reading your thoughts!

Pandemics, Bioterrorism, & Global Health Security Workshop Instructor Spotlight 
If you’re hoping to learn from a USAMRIID commander, NSABB member, UN Special Commission chief inspector, and veterinarian for the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), look no further than Dr. David R. Franz! He’s our spotlight instructor this week and will be teaching at our summer workshop in July. Dr. Franz has current standing committee appointments including the Department of Health and Human Services National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control, the National Research Council Board on Life Sciences, and the Senior Technical Advisory Committee of the National Biodefense Countermeasures Analysis Center. 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. Dr. Franz was technical editor for the Textbook of Military Medicine on Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare released in 1997. He serves as a Senior Mentor to the Program for Emerging Leaders at the National Defense University. He also serves on the Board of Integrated Nano-Technologies, LLC. Dr. Franz holds an adjunct appointment as Professor for the department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University. The current focus of his activities relates to the role of international engagement in the life sciences as a component of national security policy. Dr. Franz holds a DVM from Kansas State University and a PhD in physiology from Baylor College of Medicine. Even better, he’ll be lecturing on dual-use research at the workshop, so make sure to register!

Financial Cuts to Biodefense – Are We Digging Our Own Grave?
Despite a stark outlook painted from the looming threat of pandemics and the realities of American public health inadequacies, things are being further compounded by proposed budgetary hits to biodefense. A 10% increase in military spending means that other government agencies will take a hit, of which many are involved in biosecurity and biodefense. “The Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, which tracks outbreaks of disease, would be cut by $136 million, or 9.7 percent. The National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases — a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fights threats like anthrax and Ebola — would be cut by $65 million, or 11 percent. The CDC’s Center for Global Health would lose $76 million, or 18 percent. Its Emergency Operations Center, which conducts real-time monitoring of outbreak responses, and its Select Agents Program, which sets regulations in lethal toxin labs and helps researchers stay ahead of bioterrorists, face unspecified cuts as well.” Fear is flourishing as there are substantial gaps in the appointment of positions within key federal agencies that are responsible for outbreak response and global health security. The 700 vacancies at the CDC alone is troubling as cases of Ebola continue to bubble up in the DRC and China fights back against a deadly outbreak of avian influenza. Many experts, like J. Stephen Morrison, the director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, are horrified and note that these drastic cuts will surely impact health security. A recent op-ed by faculty from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security highlights the proposed budget and how it makes the U.S. vulnerable to bioterrorism. In the event of such an attack, there are several links in the response chain that will invariably lose capacity and capability following such budgetary cuts- first responders, hospital staff, public health professionals, MCM research, decontamination efforts, etc.  In fact, the recent announcement of the expected closure of  NBACC, the Fort Detrick research lab only fuels concern. “While the overall spending for the Department of Homeland Security increases in Trump’s budget request, that department also zeroes out funding for the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick.” NBACC is barely seven years old and is the government’s leading organization for forensic epidemiology in the event of a biocrime or bioterrorism. It is a world class facility for biodefense, collaborates with NIH and the DoD to conduct research gaps, and maintains several partnerships to strengthen U.S. biodefense and global health security. “’President Trump’s budget undermines important work being done in Frederick County to protect our troops and our national security. It guts federal investment in scientific research that saves lives, keeps our nation safe, and supports good-paying jobs in our state. The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center at Fort Detrick, which helps protect America from biological threats, is doing critical work and I will fight these cuts and this ill-conceived budget in the U.S. Senate,’ said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), who is a member of the Senate’s budget and appropriations committees.” Governor John K. Delaney (MD) recently voiced his concern for the potential closure of NBACC, noting that he is “100% opposed to the closing of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center in Frederick and will fight this deeply misguided move by the Trump Administration. While DHS may be moving forward with plans to close the facility based on the assumption that the President’s request will be enacted, I want to stress that President Trump’s budget proposal is not law yet, that all funding and appropriations matters must go through Congress and that Trump’s budget overall has very little support in the House and Senate.” Unfortunately, as the threat of infectious diseases only grows, these cuts and closures will severely impact global health security. As the faculty from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security noted, “We urge Congress to reject the severe cuts proposed by the Trump administration and to support the continuation of these and other critical national biopreparedness and response assets, which protect the health and safety of all Americans.” On top of the budgetary impact to biodefense efforts, Thursday brought forth the troubling news that President Trump will end U.S. involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement . Many experts are highlighting the untold damage that will come from this move by way of climate change and international relations, but also the unintended consequence that is so easily forgotten – the spread of infectious diseases.

National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP)
Don’t miss the July 5th deadline for this amazing opportunity! “The NBBTP was conceived as a partnership between the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The program is administered by CDIC, Inc. The NBBTP Fellowship is a two-year program designed to train Fellows specifically to support high containment research environments by acquiring knowledge and skills necessary to meet the scientific, regulatory, biocontainment, biosafety, engineering, communications, management, and public relations challenges associated with the conduct of research in these facilities. NBBTP Fellows do not engage in any primary patient care activities. The mission of the NBBTP is to prepare biosafety and biocontainment professionals of the highest caliber to meet the needs of the biomedical emerging disease and civilian biodefense research communities through the 21st century.”

Outbreak Insurance
Instead of a tiny gecko or duck, perhaps the mascot would be a friendly looking microbe? Metabiota has a new CEO and a plan for outbreak response that involves insurance. Bill Rossi thinks that this could be the key to stopping outbreaks and Metabiota plans to help by providing the monitoring tools that would facilitate its success. “The company’s chief executive said that the new policies will provide financing in the wake of deadly pandemics and encourage multi-national corporations and nation-states to invest in preventing the spread of disease. Metabiota launched its insurance product last month and has been pitching its services to insurers, nations, and companies ever since. Indeed, Metabiota is partnering with the African Risk Capacity (ARC) agency, an agency of the  African Union (AU) to help nations respond to threats.” Rossi points to the growing interest in pandemic insurance since the 2014 Ebola outbreak and acknowledges that there will have to be work to avoid potential abuse of such policies that would result in perverse incentives (i.e. profitable insurance payouts should a country be afflicted by an epidemic). Regardless of insurance, early detection systems are a necessary investment and that’s where Rossi and his Metabiota team come in. Metabiota is working with “sovereign nations and also the insurers who have the financial wherewithal to ensure that policies are put in place to prevent the spread of disease.” Epidemic insurance is looking better every day, especially after the World Bank revealed that most nations aren’t ready for a pandemic. Recently, a working group was tasked with evaluating the world’s pandemic readiness and sadly, they found that most countries simple aren’t prepared. “Recent economic estimates suggest the global total for a moderately severe to severe pandemic could be $570 billion, or 0.7% of the world’s income. The 131-page report said many countries chronically underinvest in critical public health tasks that help with early identification and containment of infectious diseases: surveillance, diagnostic labs, and emergency operations centers. It also spells out 12 recommendations to ensure adequate financial support and infrastructure”. The recommendations include preparing a detailed financial proposal to support implementation of the plan to improve preparedness, developing partners and building on existing collective and bilateral commitments to help finance preparedness in countries needing support, etc.

Unexpected Mutations Following CRISPR           
I guess what happens in CRISPR doesn’t stay in CRISPR, eh? A recent letter published in Nature notes that despite the hopes many had for the gene editing technology as a means of solving disease-causing mutations, a new study found that there were some unintended changes to other genes. “When correcting blindness in mice, researchers at Columbia University found that though CRISPR did manage to successfully edit the particular gene responsible for blindness, it also caused mutations to more than a thousand other unintended genes. The off-target effects of CRISPR have long been known, but this new research highlights just how extensive they can be, and highlights the importance of research to understand them.” Shortly after the letter was published in Nature, investments in genome-editing companies took a hit and stock prices dropped.

Ebola in the DRC
This week the DRC approved the use of the experimental Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV. The WHO plans to use a ring vaccination method to roll out the new vaccine. “The situation report also said that several cases of suspected Ebola have now been ruled out, meaning the outbreak appears to be not as extensive as once feared. As of Sunday, there were 2 confirmed, 3 probable, and 14 suspected cases. No new possible cases have been identified since May 11.” You can read the latest WHO situation reports here for updated case counts and geographic distribution.

Virus Hunters
Researchers are currently hunting for the next lethal virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The team is in the DRC with the PREDICT project, which is part of USAID’s Emerging Pandemics Threat program to create a database of zoonotic pathogens that are the most likely emerging pandemic threats. “If scientists can detail the places where lethal viruses simmer in wait, the thinking goes, they can head off a swelling pandemic and better manage outbreaks while they are still small and local. Researchers and other outbreak responders could consult this database to begin mapping the source of an emerging disease, for example, and quickly get to work on minimizing transmission and developing potential new vaccines that could save countless lives. ‘We have a job to do,’ Dr. Prime Mulembakani explains. ‘We also have the opportunity to be in contact, in close contact, with people who are on the front line—the communities who are really at risk for a virus spillover from animals into people.’ The irony of potentially disease-carrying bats hanging from the rafters of the local health center is not lost on Mulembakani, an epidemiologist by training, and he pauses for emphasis: ‘We need to stop these events from getting out of control’.”

Stories You May Have Missed:

  • Pale Rider – The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World – Laura Spinney’s new book, Pale Rider, is coming out this fall, which details the history of the 1918 pandemic. Spinney takes the reader through a journey of the influenza virus history and how the pandemic was quickly forgotten after it took as many as 100 million lives. “By early 1920, nearly two years after the end of the first world war and the first outbreak of Spanish flu, the disease had killed as many as 100m people— more than both world wars combined. Yet few would name it as the biggest disaster of the 20th century. Some call it the ‘forgotten flu’. Almost a century on, Pale Rider, a scientific and historic account of Spanish flu, addresses this collective amnesia”.
  • Salmonella Outbreak in 47 States – Nearly 400 have been sickened following a salmonella outbreak tied to live poultry. “Since early January and through May 13 the outbreaks have sickened 372 people in 47 states. So far, 71 people have been hospitalized but no deaths have been reported. Just over a third (36%) of the sick patients are children. During the investigations, interviews revealed that 83% (190) of 228 sick people had contact with live poultry the week before they got sick. People bought live baby poultry from a variety of sources, including feed supply stores, Web sites, hatcheries, and relatives.”


Week in DC: Events July 11-15, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016
How To Defeat Terrorism In Iraq– Institute of World Politics
Time: 1-2:30pm
Location: The Institute of World Politics1521 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA (map)
Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari will share his vision for his country: a political re-crafting of the existing government structure away from sectarianism and towards a new consitution based on Iraqi national citizenship and inclusive of participation from all sectarian communities. HE Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari is the Chairman of the Iraq National Project and President of Peace Ambassadors for Iraq (PAFI). One of the leaders of the al-Zoba tribe in Iraq, he is the nephew of the late Islamic scholar and religious leader Sheikh Harith al-Dhari. Jamal was born in the Abu Ghraib district of Iraq on July 16, 1965. He grew up within the al-Zoba tribe and in the 1970s he attended the Hafsa School. In the 1980s, Jamal was conscripted into the Iraqi Army to fight in the Iran- Iraq War.  During his time on the frontline, he fought alongside both Sunni and Shia officers and friends, in the Iraqi Republican Guard. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by coalition forces, Jamal was a strong proponent of Iraqi nationalism and self-rule.  In 2005, he and his family fought against al-Qaeda’s occupation of Iraqi territory and, as a consequence, Jamal lost 70 members of his family in the struggle. In 2014, Jamal helped to establish the nonprofit think tank Peace Ambassadors for Iraq, whose purpose is to advocate for a renewed system of government in Iraq, to determine the best policies to fully eliminate ISIS/Daesh and other terrorist forces from Iraq, and to build international support for an all-inclusive Iraq. Presently, Jamal is working for a renewal in Iraq by forging a non-sectarian and inclusive settlement for all Iraqis.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Opportunities And Challenges In Implementing The Iran Nuclear Deal– Bipartisan Policy Center
Time: 10am-noon
Location: Bipartisan Policy Center1225 I Street, NW Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20005 (map)
On July 14, 2015, President Obama announced that international negotiators had reached agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), “a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Robust debate followed, with supporters of the deal arguing that it would put in place verifiable restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and critics worried that it would do too little to prevent Iranian cheating while leaving other issues—Iran’s ballistic missiles and its support for terrorism, for example—off the table. As the first anniversary of the JCPOA approaches, it is possible to assess how the deal has fared thus far and what challenges or opportunities its implementation might present going forward. Please join the Bipartisan Policy Center for a keynote address by Ambassador Stephen Mull, the State Department’s lead coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation, and an expert panel discussion. The event will be streamed live on this page. Join the discussion on Twitter: @BPC_Bipartisan#BPClive

Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Russia’s AIDS Epidemic: Truths, Policies, And Future Outlook– Center on Global Interests
Time: 10:30-noon
Location: Human Rights Council 1640 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington DC, 20036 (map)
Russia is home to one of Europe’s largest and fastest growing HIV/AIDS infected populations. As of 2016, more than 1 million people are registered on the country’s official HIV-positive list. What factors led to Russia’s AIDS epidemic, and will it continue to grow? How have policymakers responded to the crisis? And what do these responses say about Russia’s current political, social, and economic environment? As the world’s public health leaders prepare to meet in South Africa for the AIDS 2016 summit, the Center on Global Interests is pleased to invite you to this timely discussion with Robert Heimer, Professor of Epidemiology and Pharmacology at the Yale School of Public Health and Olga Levina, Development Director at Stellit, a St. Petersburg-based public health NGO. Judyth Twigg, Professor of Political Science and senior fellow (non-resident) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies will moderate the conversation. Continue reading “Week in DC: Events July 11-15, 2016”

Week in DC: Events 6.27-7.1.2016

Monday, June 27, 2016
Leaders Speak: National Security Advisors– National Committee on U.S.-China Relations
Time: 5:30-7pm
Location: Omni Shoreham Hotel2500 Calvert St NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA (map)
Every morning, the national security advisor briefs the president of the United States on the world’s most pressing security threats, from ISIS to the Zika virus. Our collective security is increasingly reliant upon cooperation between the United States and China, whether it is minimizing the risk of conflict in the South China Sea, dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, or responding to climate change. Join us for a program on these issues and more, featuring former National Security Advisors Stephen J. HadleyRobert “Bud” McFarlane, and Richard V. Allen in conversation with National Committee President Steve Orlins.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Trading Up: A Critical Perspective On Jobs, Governance & Security In U.S. Trade Policy– Institute for Policy Studies
Time: 9am-5pm
Location: nstitute for Policy Studies815 16th St. NW Washington, DC United States (map)
We are delighted to invite you to“Trading Up: A Critical Perspective on Jobs, Governance & Security in U.S. Trade Policy,”  A program that includes continental breakfast, lunch and an evening reception. U.S.  trade policy is at a crossroads. With progress at the WTO seemingly halted, the global business community has turned to alternative strategies, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Administration continues to work to advance the TPP this year, but its unpopularity with all remaining presidential candidates and their primary voters has made that goal tenuous. We encourage you to R.S.V.P. as soon as possible, as space is limited for this free event. Check out the Trading Up conference agenda in full.

Expand Social Security Now– Economic Policy Institute
Time: 11am-12:20pm
Location: Economic Policy Institute1225 Eye Street, N.W. Washington, DC (map)
Suite 600 Wellstone Room
Join Social Security Works at the Economic Policy Institute for a panel on expanding Social Security. As seen in the New York Times, Social Security expansion is part of a strong and growing movement in America and will play a crucial role in the 2016 election. This movement has allowed defenders of Social Security to shift the conversation and have a serious discussion about how we can expand Social Security to solve the retirement security crisis. On June 28, 2016, we will be joined by author Steven Hill to talk about his new book Expand Social Security Now! How to Ensure Americans Get the Retirement They Deserve, as well as Nancy Altman, co-author of Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All. The panel will be moderated by the President and CEO of the Center for Global Policy Solutions and author of Plan for a New Future: The Impact of Social Security Reform on People of ColorMaya Rockeymoore, and joined by EPI President Lawrence Mishel. This panel will explore Social Security expansion and discuss how we can continue to make expansion the only option for lawmakers. Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 6.27-7.1.2016”

Week in DC: Events 6.6-6.10.2016

Monday, June 6th, 2016
Sustaining NATO’s Strength And Deterrence– Atlantic Council
Time: 9am-12:45pm
Location: Kempinski Hotel Cathedral SquareUniversiteto g. 14, Vilnius 01122, Lithuania (map)
The discussions will feature a keynote address by Ben Hodges, Commanding General of US Army Europe, and opening remarks by Lithuania’s Minister of National Defense, Juozas Olekas.
The conference will convene key regional and US officials, military leaders, and senior experts for a high-level discussion on the strategic issues facing NATO’s eastern flank, one month before its seminal 2016 Warsaw Summit.
The Baltic region has become a potential flashpoint between NATO and Russia. Russia has ratcheted up tensions in the region through large-scale military exercises, dramatic air and sea encounters, and the development of a potent anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) network. Establishing new approaches and strategies to sustain NATO’s strength and presence in the region will be a key priority for the Alliance. This conference will contribute directly to the discussions in the Alliance as it prepares for its Warsaw Summit.
If you have any questions or wish to RSVP, please contact Monika Korolioviene at the Ministry of National Defense of Lithuania at We hope that you will be able to join us for this important event. Thank you very much, and we look forward to hearing from you soon. On Twitter? Follow @ACScowcroft and @Lithuanian_MoD and use #FutureNATO to join the conversation!

Global Nuclear Challenges And Solutions For The Next U.S. President– Arms Control Association
Time: 9am-2:30pm
Location: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036 (map)
Root Room
On June 6, shortly after President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima, we will host our 2016 Annual Meeting featuring keynote remarks from President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor and 2015 “Arms Control Person of the Year” award winner Setsuko Thurlow.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
Climate, Air Pollution, And Public Health—Revisiting The Energy Innovation Agenda– Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Time: 9-11:45am
Location: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA (map)
The nexus between air quality and climate change is of growing importance, as developing countries grapple with intensifying air pollution. Some believe that local air pollution—an environmental challenge that is more visible and immediately harmful to public health than longer-term climate change—may in fact drive policy and technology that can ultimately both improve air quality and work to mitigate climate change. Yet the impression of mutual gains may be illusory or at least incomplete—there is no guarantee that action on air quality will bring about coherent climate policymaking, nor vice-versa. Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 6.6-6.10.2016”

Week in DC: Events 5.29.2016-6.3.2016

Monday, May 30th, 2016
Happy Memorial Day!

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
The Iran Nuclear Deal: Prelude To Proliferation In The Middle East?– Brookings Institution
Time: 9:30-11am
Location: Brookings Institution1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 (map)
Sign up to watch the live webcast instead »The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) adopted by Iran and the P5+1 partners in July 2015 was an effort not only to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but also to avert a nuclear arms competition in the Middle East. But uncertainties surrounding the future of the Iran nuclear deal, including the question of what Iran will do when key JCPOA restrictions on its nuclear program expire after 15 years, could provide incentives for some of its neighbors to keep their nuclear options open.In their Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Series monograph, “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Prelude to Proliferation in the Middle East?,” Robert Einhorn and Richard Nephew assess the current status of the JCPOA and explore the likelihood that, in the wake of the agreement, regional countries will pursue their own nuclear weapons programs or at least latent nuclear weapons capabilities. Drawing on interviews with senior government officials and non-government experts from the region, they focus in depth on the possible motivations and capabilities of Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates for pursuing nuclear weapons. The monograph also offers recommendations for policies to reinforce the JCPOA and reduce the likelihood that countries of the region will seek nuclear weapons.On May 31, the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative will host a panel to discuss the impact of the JCPOA on prospects for nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Brookings Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of Foreign Policy Suzanne Maloney will serve as moderator. Panelists include H.E. Yousef Al Otaiba, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States; Derek Chollet, counselor and senior advisor for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund; Brookings Senior Fellow Robert Einhorn; and Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Richard Nephew.Following the discussion, panelists will take questions from the audience. This event will be live webcast.

A Security System For The Two State Solution– Center for a New American Security
Time: 1:30-4pm
Location: Willard interContinental Hotel1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC, 20004 (map)
The challenges associated with coming to a permanent status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that can meet Israeli security requirements and Palestinian requirements for sovereignty and dignity are growing more challenging.  During the Oslo period of the 1990s security was considered the least challenging of the core final status issues when compared to borders, refugees, or Jerusalem. But the pull out from Gaza and regional instability in the aftermath of the Arab revolutions has made this issue a central challenge for any future negotiation. For the past year a team of American and Israeli former government and security officials have been working together on a study that details a sustainable security system to support a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The purpose of the study is to demonstrate, through deep and comprehensive analysis, that well thought-through security measures in the context of the two-state solution can provide Israel with a degree of security, equal or greater to the one provided today by its deployment into the West Bank, while at the same time being compatible with Palestinian requirements for sovereignty and dignity.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016
How Jihadists Weaponize Islamic History And How To De-Weaponize It- Westminster Institute
Time: 7:30-8:45pm
Location: Westminster Institute6729 Curran St, McLean, VA 22101, United States (map)
Religious extremists in the Middle East, both Sunni and Shia, have succeeded in weaponizing history. They wield an airbrushed version of past events to inform and legitimize their actions and strategies. We can counteract their revisionism by drawing on the fields of Islamic history, contemporary politics, strategy, media, and psychology. Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 5.29.2016-6.3.2016”

Week in DC: Events 5.23-27.2016

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
The Changing Face Of Kremlin Propaganda: Recent Developments And Strategies For 2016- Atlantic Council
Time: noon
Location: Atlantic Council1030 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005, United States (map)
Manipulation of the media space is a powerful tool in Russia’s “non-linear” war on the West. The Kremlin has weaponized TV, news, and social media by spreading disinformation, which portrays the West as hypocritical, declining, and seeking to dominate the global order. Russia’s propaganda manipulates national and international media, confusing and distracting citizens and policymakers. This campaign erodes global support for Western multilateral institutions and liberal democratic values. The West’s response to this growing threat to global security has, so far, been tepid and uncoordinated. As a result, the space for alternative Russian language news continues to shrink.
Independent Russian-language journalists operate in a state media-dominated environment on a daily basis. This panel will focus on the challenges they face and what the West should do to support independent Russian-language journalism.
We hope you can join us for this important and timely discussion.
On Twitter? Follow @ACEurasia and use #ACRussia

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
Cybersecurity After Information Sharing- Center for Strategic and International Studies
Time: 8:30-10am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036 (map)
Increasing the sharing of cyber threat intelligence has been the main focus of the US Government’s strategy to enhance the cyber posture of the United States. With the passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, what are the next steps that Congress and the incoming administration should take to successfully implement the legislation and to shore up the US cybersecurity posture?
Zika In The U.S: Can We Manage The Risk?– Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Time: 11a-12:15pm
Location: Woodrow Wilson Center1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20004 (map)
This month, for the first time, a fetus in Puerto Rico was infected by the Zika virus and diagnosed with microcephaly. Already, more than 500 Zika cases linked to foreign travel have been reported across the continental United States, from California to Maine – and several dozen of these affect pregnant women. Public health officials warn the Zika virus poses an imminent threat in the United States and we may only be a few steps closer to understanding the full spectrum of risks. How will U.S. officials manage the spread of the disease, while communicating a complex, evolving crisis to a worried nation?  Photo Credit: A woman in the Dominican Republic participates in an outreach program by the Office of the First Lady, courtesy of the Presidency of the Dominican Republic. Speakers: Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO, Wilson Center Anthony S. Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health The Honorable Susan Molinari, Vice President for Public Policy, Google and former Congresswoman from New York Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, MD, Principal Deputy Director, Center for Disease Control and Prevention Jason Beaubien, Global Health and Development Correspondent, NPR Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 5.23-27.2016”

Week in DC: Events 5.16-20.2016

Monday, May 16th, 2016
The Department Of Defense Cyber Strategy: An Assessment- Homeland Security Policy Institute
Time: 11am-1pm
Location: Cloyd Heck Marvin Center800 21st St NW #505, Washington, DC 20052 (map)
Grand Ballroom | Third Floor
The Center for Cyber & Homeland Security (CCHS) at the George Washington University would like to invite you to attend a special forum on the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy to be convened jointly with Northrop Grumman Corporation. Particular attention will be accorded to the issue of Cyber Deterrence.
Keynote –Congressman James R. Langevin (D-RI) – Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, House Armed Services Committee, U.S. House of Representatives; and Co-Chair, Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus

‘Crimes Against The Security Of The Nation’: World War II, The Cold War, And The Evolution Of Mexico’s Anti-Subversion Laws, 1941-1970– Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Time: 4-5:30pm
Location: Wilson Center1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004(map)
While, until recently, relatively little attention has been given to the importance of international conditions in accounting for the longevity of Mexico’s post-revolutionary regime, Halbert Jones will show how World War II and the Cold War played a pivotal role in enabling successive Mexican governments to enact, expand, and apply one of its most controversial legal tools, a provision in the federal penal code criminalizing what it described as acts of “social dissolution.”  The legislation, in force from 1941 to 1970, prescribed severe penalties for vaguely defined crimes of subversion, and it was invoked over the course of those decades against striking workers, student protesters, and a famous communist muralist, among others who were said to be spreading “foreign propaganda” and undermining national security.  By the time Mexico’s 1968 student movement called for the repeal of the measure, however, it had become a symbol of what critics saw as the arbitrary nature of the regime.  The removal of the provision from the books in 1970 – and its replacement with a clause introducing the new crime of “terrorism” – therefore highlights the ability of an authoritarian political system to adapt to changing international and domestic political conditions.

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
Drone Proliferation: Impacts On Security, Strategy, And Policy- The Stimson Center
Time: 9:30-11am
Location: Stimson Center1211 Connecticut Ave NW, 8th floor, Washington, DC 20036 (map)
Drones are increasingly used in military operations around the world. While the United States maintains a temporary dominance in its use of armed drones, it does not hold a monopoly on the technology and several countries continue to seek similar programs and capabilities. These patterns raise a number of questions about the impact of drone proliferation on international security and stability. As more countries join the ranks of those using drones as a regular part of their military arsenals, the potential future uses of drones could change the ways in which conflicts are fought, peace is maintained, and the balance of power is sustained or upended. RSVP HERE Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 5.16-20.2016”

Week in DC: Events 5.9-5.13.2016

Monday, May 9th, 2016
Islamist Terrorism In Europe : A History– New America Foundation
Time: 12:30-1:45pm
Location: New America740 15th St NW #900, Washington, DC 20005, United States (map)
In 2015 Islamist terrorism in Europe dominated the news with deadly attacks in Paris in January and November. Yet the attacks are only the latest in a long history of jihadist terrorism in Europe. In his new book Islamist Terrorism in Europe Petter Nesser provides a comprehensive account of the rise of jihadist militancy in Europe drawing upon a wide range of new primary sources and tracing the phenomenon back to the late 1980s. Nesser also examines how jihadist terrorism in Europe reflects the ideological agendas of armed organizations in conflict zones, and how entrepreneurial jihad-veterans facilitate the transnationalization of militancy. Dr. Petter Nesser is a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and the author of Islamist Terrorism in Europe: A History. He is trained in the areas of Social Science, Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic at the University of Oslo (UiO) and The American University in Cairo (AUC). Dr. Nesser has conducted extensive research on militant Islamism in Europe for more than a decade while focusing on motivational factors, recruitment and radicalization processes.  New America is pleased to welcome Dr. Nesser for a discussion of his book and the history of Islamist terrorism in Europe.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
The State Of Defense Acquisition– Center for Strategic and International Studies
Time: 10-11:30am
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036(map)
Please join us for a conversation on the state of defense acquisition with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), the honorable Frank Kendall.

Schieffer Series: Breaking ISIL’s Brand– Center for Strategic and International Studies
Time: 5:30-6:30pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036(map)
Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 5.9-5.13.2016”

Week in DC: Events 5.2-5.6.2016

Monday, May 2nd, 2016
A Forgotten Conflict– Center for Strategic and International Studies
Time: 11am-12:30pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036 (map)
Nagorno-Karabakh is the oldest of all post-Soviet conflicts, frozen and otherwise.  Unresolved, yet only sporadically violent for over twenty years, the ceasefire has mostly held—even without the sort of international peacekeeping presence often required to quiet wars like this one.  At the same time, the most recent outbreak of fighting a month ago underlines the fragility of the situation, and illustrates how tenuous any hopes of peace are. Leila Alieva will discuss the structural and instrumental factors that have kept this conflict unresolved and assess what has led to the most recent violence. She will also present her views of how Russia’s role in this conflict has developed and whether that evolution has made the prospects for peace better or worse. Finally, she will outline possible ways ahead towards a more resilient peace in the region. Dr. Leila Alieva is currently an Academic Visitor at St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford. She is a prolific author on topics related to Caucasus and post-Soviet economic and security issues. She has been affiliated with Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley, The Kennan Institute, The National Endowment for Democracy, the NATO Defense College, and Uppsala University. In Azerbaijan, she was founder and chair of the Center for National and International Studies and directed an independent Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Political And Security Crises In Afghanistan: The Future Of The Unity Government Middle East Institute
Time: noon-1:30pm
Location: Carnegie Endowment- Choate Room1779 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington District of Columbia 20036 (map)
The Middle East Institute’s (MEI) Louis R. Hughes Lecture Series is pleased to host Ali JalaliMichael KugelmanOmar Samad, and Scott Smith for an examination of the political and security challenges facing Afghanistan’s government and how they are likely to play out over the next several months. Public confidence in Afghanistan has been shaken by deteriorating security, a stagnant economy, and factionalism. Many question if parliamentary elections can be organized on schedule, or be seen as legitimate if they happen. If milestones on the constitutional roadmap – electing a parliament, convening a Loya Jirga, establishing the office of prime minister – are not met, what consequences could follow? Can the government and army reverse Taliban gains and reduce the violence plaguing the country? And what more can the U.S. and international partners do to promote security and stability?

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
Environmental Security: A Crucible In The South China Sea East-West Center
Time: 12:30-2pm
Location: East-West Center1819 L St NW #600, Washington, DC 20036 (map)
Sixth Floor Conference RoomThe growing use of the ocean as a laboratory has global scientific, environmental, legal and policy implications. The panelists will explain relationships between marine scientific research and the marine environmental provisions of the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea on the following panels: James Borton – “The Convergence of Science and Geopolitics in the South China Sea;” Dr. John McManus – ” Damage to the Coral Reefs of the Spratly Islands: Regional Consequences and a Peace Park Solution;” and Dr. Nong Hong – ” Environmental Security as a Driving Force of Cooperation in the South China Sea.” Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 5.2-5.6.2016”