The Humanitarian Times

August 27, 1999

 

- TURKEYS EARTHQUAKE LEAVES 35,000+ INJURED & 200,000 HOMELESS.

1,500 hospitalized in Istanbul had broken bones after leaping from balconies.

Urban sewage, electricity & water supply systems were disabled. Many donated tents are not being used by the displaced. Thousands of prefab shelters have been promised by the Dutch. Only an estimated 10% of earthquake-affected homeowners were insured. One list of many NGOs helping in Turkey is online at: http://www.interaction.org/turkey/index.html

- NEWSPAPERS SPREAD EPIDEMIC OF MISCONCEPTIONS, repeating rumors of infectious disease threats in Turkey, while WHO has emphasized that natural disasters do not import unusual diseases nor breed communicable disease epidemics. The health priority in the quake zone is on repairing the water purification systems. No comm. dis. outbreaks have been seen in Turkey. There is no need for mass immunization.

- KURDISH RESISTANCE AGREES TO LEAVE TURKEY as part of peace process between Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) & Turkey's govt.

- RUSSIAN TROOPS PLANT LANDMINES IN DEPOPULATED DAGESTAN VILLAGES (Tando, Rakhata, Shodrota, Ansalta, & Ashino), pushing 2,000 independence fighters back into Chechnya.

- DROUGHT LEAVES 5M FOOD INSECURE IN ETHIOPIA, 1M IN SOMALIA, forcing livestock sales & malnutrition increase. Donor food commitments have been small so far.

- NEW REFUGEE FLIGHT: 1,000 NAGA TRIBES-PEOPLE HAVE FLED BURMA into NE India's Nagaland (Pangsa), after persecution by the Burma military to renounce Christianity.

- TAJIKISTAN GAINS MOMENTUM FOR DIS-ARMAMENTATION, PEACE, for implementing 1997's peace agreement The govt & the United Tajik Opposition agreed on constitutional amendments, which will be subject to a Sept. 26 national referendum, & the UTO announced it will disarm.

- PARAMILITARY KILLINGS COMPEL 4,000 TO FLEE COLUMBIA INTO VENEZ.

- UN REJECTS IDEA OF SERB ENCLAVES IN KOSOVO (FAVORED BY SERBS)

- MORE JOURNALISTS MURDERED WORLDWIDE: REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES finds a steep rise in journalists killed in 1999 in comparison to 1998.

In another new report RSP finds that 45 authoritarian regimes severely restrict Internet communication of its citizens & calls on these countries to cease censorship of expression on the internet: "Reporters Sans Frontières calls on Burma, China, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia & Tajikistan to ratify & enforce the Intl Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, which stipulates "everyone shall have the right to receive & impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers" & asks those states that have signed the covenant -- Azerbaijan, Belarus, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Libya, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam -- to respect their commitment to the Covenant. RSP's 1999 global review online: www.rsf.fr/indexuk.html.

- JAPAN ENCOURAGED TO GIVE FOOD AID TO N. KOREA BY US CONGRESSMAN Tony Hall this week, pointing to Japan's current 5m ton rice surplus.

Japan ceased its aid last year.

- CALIFORNIA RESOLUTION CALLS ON JAPAN TO APOLOGIZE FOR ATROCITIES (including sex slaves) during World War II, passed this week by the State Assembly & now goes to the Senate.

- INTL CONF. ON EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES, IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA, will be held July 16-19, 2000 prevention, control communication, research: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/iceid2k.htm.

- 5th ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF ETHIOPIAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL & African Resource Network: Sept 16-18, 1999 in Arlington, VA: www.ecdcinternational.org

 

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MASS CASUALTIES & BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

 

Biological weapons based on known killers such as botulism (toxin), Ebola & Marburg viruses, anthrax, Q fever, epidemic typhus, & tularemia, are emerging as humanitarian threats to large civilian populations. In recent history, Japanese bioweapons killed 3,000 Chinese WWII, & Russians used bioweapons on Afghanistan in the 1980s. The primary mass casualty threat of bioweapons is from aersolized distribution, with human entry being respiratory (breathing). Bioweapons are lighter, have more extensive killing range, persist longer, & are harder to detect, than chemical weapons, & effect far less non-human damage (i.e. to infrastructure) than nuclear weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention (signed in 1972 & entered into force in 1975) defined no enforcement measures; Russia & Iraq, among others, have violated it. Today bioweapons are possessed by Libya, North Korea, south Korea, Iraq, Taiwan, Syria, Israel, Iran, China, Egypt, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, Bulgaria, India, South Africa, & Russia.

Although Russia apparently dismantled its bioweapons industry, no one today knows where the thousands of Soviet scientists have gone to, to ply their expertise.

Humanitarian aid organizations, non-profits in particular, have little or no current capacity (training or preparedness) to deal with bioweapon incidents in large populations. Several recent publications, reviewed below, have a high degree of content overlap, most listing the same 25 biohazards, their means of infectivity, lethality, & medical treatment measures. Each acknowledges that policy analysts are increasing fearful of the potential for bio-terrorist incidents with large casualty levels. Yet each is weak on suggesting programs or strategies for prevention, monitoring, training for bioweapon incidents in different countries, including developing countries in conflict; each is focused almost exclusively on clinical aspects of an urban attack in the US.

- "BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS, LIMITING THE THREAT", J LEDERBERG editor (1999, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) includes current analyses of over 50 specialists in bioweapons, including basic textbook review of diseases, case-identification methods, scenarios,& comparison of probable threats to modern cities. Karl Lowe argues for civilians use of the simple biological warfare masks ($4 apiece). Caruth argues that past history gives little "insight into the potential consequences" of merging bioweapons with sophisticated military delivery systems.

- AUGUST '99 ISSUE OF "EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES" JOURNAL on "Medical and Public Health Response to Bioterrorism" (Atlanta: CDC) gives an even more up to date review by 50+ authors (many, the same).

Hopkins' Russell finds that "Despite the protective efficacy of vaccines against individual organisms, the very high costs & great difficulties involved in vaccinating large populations, along with the broad spectrum of potential agents, make it impossible to use vaccines to protect the general population against bioterrorism. However, if suitable vaccines can be made available, they have several potential uses: control of a smallpox epidemic & prevention of a global pandemic, post-exposure prophylaxis against anthrax (with antibiotics), & pre-exposure prophylaxis in first-responders at high risk, laboratory workers, & health-care providers. The journal is available in its entirety on the web: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/index.htm

- INSIDER RECOUNTS $1BILLION/ANNUM SOVIET BIOWEAPONS ARMAMENTATION: Ken Alibek in his 1999 "BioHazard - the True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World" (NY: Random House) relates his personal experience managing extensive bioweapons research & devel. in the USSR where under Breshznev dozens of biological warfare installations were established & disguised as legitimate medical groups. As recently as 1990 total Soviet bioweapons spending was roughly $1 billion. "By the 1970s we had managed to harness single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles for use in the delivery of biological agents. The plague weapon we had created in our laboratories was more virulent than the bubonic plague. Smallpox was stockpiled in underground bunkers at our military plants and we were developing a weapon prototype based on a rare filovirus called Marburg, a cousin of Ebola." Alibek does not believe Russia has fully disarmed.

- "JANE'S CHEM-BIO HANDBOOK" EXPLAINS SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT (1998, Alexandria VA: Janes Information Group) & USAMRIID's "Medical Management of Biological Casualties" (1998 , MD: Fort Detrick, & online at www.usamriid.army.mil/content/FMs/medman/) & are handy pocket-sized references, also including microgram dosage for lethal dose (LD-50), incubation periods, & vaccines for the 25 main biohazards. On anthrax, for example: the recommended use of vaccine (6 dose) if pre-exposure, otherwise individuals should receive ciprofloxacin, 500 mg bid; for 4 weeks. In developed countries, it is difficult to cause high levels of casualties with BW agents via municipal water supplies. If an aerosol attack does occur: "It is thought that most open air BW attacks will occur shortly before daybreak, a sunset or during the night."

- IRAQ, POISONOUS WEAPONS & DETERRENCE is the subtitle & subject of Avigdor Haselkorn's 1999 "The Continuing Storm" which scours the evidence about Iraq's development & sequestration of weaponized biological & chemical agents. Haselkorn concludes that S. Hussein used the threat of bioweapon release as his trump card in 1991, & does so today as well. A single warhead dispersion of sarin nerve agent, or of dried anthrax spores over Tel Aviv would have led to many thousands of deaths. "Even if Saddam's mass destruction capability had been eroded by the US bombing, Washington had to assume that a surviving chem/bio warhead could hit Israel & cause a dramatic escalation... the US estimated it had little chance of stopping Israel (from nuclear retaliation) in such a case." The author also finds that Husein has successful concealed its current bioweapon capacity, which is greater today than it was even before the Gulf War.

- see also: Brad Roberts 1997 "Terrorism With Chemical & Biological Weapons" (Alexandria, VA: Chemical & Biological Weapons Control Institute"; & R Preston's 1998 "The Cobra Event" (reviewed Dec. 98 Humanitarian Times); & see the nuclear/biological/chemical military preparedness website: http://www.nbc-med.org/others/