Category Archives: Chemical/Biological Weapons

MSNBC Host’s Conspiracy Theory: What If Putin Planned the Syrian Chemical Attack to Help Trump?

Avi Selk reports for The Washington Post:

Image result for MSNBC Host’s Conspiracy Theory: What If Putin Planned the Syrian Chemical Attack to Help Trump?A volley of U.S. cruise missiles had barely been launched into Syria before the Internet filled up with fact-free theories about the real reason for an international crisis.

A popular one on the right-most fringes: The U.S. government actually carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria last week — a “false flag” to trick President Trump into retaliating, thus entangling himself in a foreign war.

A slightly more convoluted strain on the left: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump — distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump’s campaign ties to Russia by provoking the missile strike.

That theory — evidence-free — was laid out on a small anti-Trump website shortly after the missile strike.

But it went mainstream Friday night, when Lawrence O’Donnell advanced similar speculation on his MSNBC show, “The Last Word.”

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Could Britain Have Sold Sarin Chemicals to Assad’s Regime?

Jamie Doward reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Sarin Chemicals Assad’s RegimeEvidence that the sarin nerve agent was used in the chemical attack that killed more than 80 and injured hundreds of others in Syria’s northern province of Idlib last week has triggered awkward questions for the government over the part played by the UK in the Assad regime’s development of a chemical weapons programme.

Human rights groups and arms control campaigners have highlighted the government’s own admission that in the 80s the UK exported the chemicals necessary to make sarin to the Syrian regime. The UK also sold specialist equipment after the millennium which it now appears was diverted to the chemical weapons programme.

Allegations that the UK supplied potentially deadly chemicals to Syria were investigated by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) which in 2013 wrote to then business secretary, Vince Cable, asking him to disclose the names of companies given licence approval between 2004 and 2012 to export to Syria chemicals that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons. Cable was criticised by the committees for refusing to disclose the names of the companies.

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Khan Sheikhoun Gas Attack: We Don’t Need Conspiracies to Oppose U.S. War in Syria

Joshua Frank writes for CounterPunch:

Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi | CC BY 2.0It was a false flag! Al Qaeda did it! Why would Assad use chemical weapons when he’s winning the war? It had to be those evil terrorists.

These are the petty cries by some on the conspiracy-minded left with regard to this week’s barbaric chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which took the lives of at least 74 and injured another 350.

Of course the United States lays all the blame for the attack at the feet of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been implicated in many war crimes over the years. And unsurprisingly, the Russians, Assad’s chief allies, have countered, claiming the Syrians bombed a toxic weapons depot that unleashed the deadly nerve agent. So, in the end, according to Russia, these civilians were simply collateral damage in the War on Terror™ – an endless war, mind you, that the left once opposed.

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Is Assad to Blame for the Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria?

Matthias von Hein writes for DW:

Syrien Idlib Giftgasangriff (picture-alliance/Depo Photos/ZUMA Wire/F. Dervisoglu)More than 80 people were killed by suspected chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun. That is about the only thing certain about the attack. Western statements place blame at the feet of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, an accusation Damascus and Moscow contest.

The Syrian regime may not have had a compelling motive, believes Günther Meyer, the director of the Research Center for the Arab World at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. “Only armed opposition groups could profit from an attack with chemical weapons,” he told DW. “With their backs against the wall, they have next to no chance of opposing the regime militarily. As President [Donald] Trump’s recent statements show, such actions make it possible for anti-Assad groups to receive further support.”

Former President Barack Obama famously drew a “red line” in 2012. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” he said at the time. Meyer views the statement as an “invitation for Assad’s opponents to use chemical weapons and make the Assad regime responsible for it.”

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Trump Discussing Options for Attacking Syria

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Options for Attacking SyriaPresident Trump’s campaign stance, moving away from the  US trying to impose regime change on Syria, appears to have been totally abandoned at this point, with reports that he has informed some members of Congress that he is considering a military attack on Syria.

Trump is said to be discussing the different options on such an attack with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and that he is likely to rely on Mattis’ judgement on the matter. Officials say the Pentagon has had such plans ready to go for quite some time.

The shift in Trump Administration policy is publicly being justified by a bombing attack in northwest Syria Tuesday, allegedly a chemical weapons attack. President Trump insists Syria has “crossed many lines,” and is insisting that his position on Syria has changed, adding that “I now have responsibility when it comes to Syria.”

US, British, and French diplomats are once again pushing for UN action against Syria now, though a Russian veto at the Security Council is assured, with Russian officials saying the resolution is based on “fake information.” US officials are already looking beyond the UN and threatening unilateral action.

 

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The Children of Agent Orange

Charles Ornstein, Hannah Fresques and Mike Hixenbaugh report jointly for ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot:

Army Veteran William Penner used to jokingly call the thick yellow crust that crept across his young son Matthew’s scalp “Agent Orange” after the toxic defoliant sprayed on him in Vietnam before the boy was born. The joke turned sour a few years ago, when Matthew, now 43, was diagnosed with a host of serious illnesses, including heart disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis.

Similar worries struck vet Mike Blackledge when staffers at a local Veterans Affairs hospital suggested his children’s diseases could be linked to his time in Vietnam. His son has inflammatory bowel disease so advanced he wears a pouch to collect his waste, and his youngest daughter has neuropathy, spinal problems and gastrointestinal issues. His oldest daughter — the one born before he went to fight in Vietnam — is fine.

They, like thousands of others, are grappling with a chilling prospect: Could Agent Orange, the herbicide linked to health problems in Vietnam veterans, have also harmed their children?

For decades, the Department of Veterans Affairs has collected — and ignored — reams of information that could have helped answer that question, an investigation by ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot has found.

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Is the Obama Admin Ignoring the Role of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in Syria’s 2013 Sarin Gas Attacks? Interview with Seymour Hersh

Amy Goodman talks to Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh who rejects the Obama administration’s claim that the Bashar al-Assad regime carried out deadly chemical weapon attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August 2013 that killed hundreds of Syrian civilians. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Radioactive Weapons Fueling Birth Defects in Iraq: Interview with Barbara Koeppel

Jessica Desvarieux talks to investigative journalist Barbara Koeppel who is the author of a recent article in the Washington Spectator which examines how the U.S. is getting away with using radioactive weapons that are causing spikes in birth defects and cancer in both Iraqi citizens and U.S. veterans. (The Real News)

How the British Government subjected thousands of people to chemical and biological warfare trials during Cold War

David Keys reports for The Independent:

Aircraft, lorries and ships spread 4,600kg of cadmium sulphide in one decadeDuring the Cold War, the British Government used the general public as unwitting biological and chemical warfare guinea pigs on a much greater scale than previously thought, according to new historical research.

In more than 750 secret operations, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Britons were subjected to ‘mock’ biological and chemical warfare attacks launched from aircraft, ships and road vehicles.

Up until now historians had thought that such operations had been much less extensive. The new research, carried out by Ulf Schmidt, Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, has revealed that British military aircraft dropped thousands of kilos of a chemical of ‘largely unknown toxic potential’ on British civilian populations in and around Salisbury in Wiltshire, Cardington in Bedfordshire and Norwich in Norfolk.

Substantial quantities were also dispersed across parts of the English Channel and the North Sea. It’s not known the extent to which coastal towns in England and France were affected.

The research reveals, for the first time, that around 4600 kilos of the chemical, zinc cadmium sulphide (now thought to be potentially carcinogenic, on account of its cadmium content) were dispersed from ships, aircraft and moving lorries between 1953 and 1964.’

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‘One of the largest human experiments in history’ was conducted on unsuspecting residents of San Francisco

Kevin Loria reports for Business Insider:

'One of the largest human experiments in history' was conducted on unsuspecting residents of San FranciscoSan Francisco’s fog is famous, especially in the summer, when weather conditions combine to create the characteristic cooling blanket that sits over the Bay Area.

But one fact many may not know about San Francisco’s fog is that in 1950, the US military conducted a test to see whether it could be used to help spread a biological weapon in a “simulated germ-warfare attack.” This was just the start of many such tests around the country that would go on in secret for years.

The test was a success, as Rebecca Kreston explains over at Discover Magazine, and “one of the largest human experiments in history.”

But, as she writes, it was also “one of the largest offenses of the Nuremberg Code since its inception.”

The code stipulates that “voluntary, informed consent” is required for research participants, and that experiments that might lead to death or disabling injury are unacceptable.

The unsuspecting residents of San Francisco certainly could not consent to the military’s germ-warfare test, and there’s good evidence that it could have caused the death of at least one resident of the city, Edward Nevin, and hospitalized 10 others.

This is a crazy story; one that seems like it must be a conspiracy theory. An internet search will reveal plenty of misinformation and unbelievable conjecture about these experiments. But the core of this incredible tale is documented and true.’

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Inside America’s Secretive Biolabs: Hundreds of Accidents and Near Misses Put People at Risk

Alison Young and Nick Penzenstadler report for USA Today:

Vials of bioterror bacteria have gone missing. Lab mice infected with deadly viruses have escaped, and wild rodents have been found making nests with research waste. Cattle infected in a university’s vaccine experiments were repeatedly sent to slaughter and their meat sold for human consumption. Gear meant to protect lab workers from lethal viruses such as Ebola and bird flu has failed, repeatedly.

A USA TODAY Network investigation reveals that hundreds of lab mistakes, safety violations and near-miss incidents have occurred in biological laboratories coast to coast in recent years, putting scientists, their colleagues and sometimes even the public at risk.

Oversight of biological research labs is fragmented, often secretive and largely self-policing, the investigation found. And even when research facilities commit the most egregious safety or security breaches — as more than 100 labs have — federal regulators keep their names secret.’

Of particular concern are mishaps occurring at institutions working with the world’s most dangerous pathogens in biosafety level 3 and 4 labs — the two highest levels of containment that have proliferated since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Yet there is no publicly available list of these labs, and the scope of their research and safety records are largely unknown to most state health departments charged with responding to disease outbreaks. Even the federal government doesn’t know where they all are, the Government Accountability Office has warned for years.’

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Pentagon Accidently Shipped Live Anthrax Sample To Nine States And South Korea

Going Underground Interview with Seymour Hersh

Editor’s Note: The interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh begins at 2:56

The Toxic Uzbek Town and Its Museum of Banned Soviet Art

Stephen Bland writes for VICE News:

‘Making our way out of Uzbekistan’s Xorazm Province, we began our three-hour drive to the city of Nukus, capital of the country’s autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. Up until the late-1990s, the land we were driving through was still cotton fields; today, it’s just an expanse of salty grey emptiness.

Once a thriving agricultural center, Karakalpakstan is now one of the sickest places on Earth. Respiratory illness, typhoid, tuberculosis and oesophageal cancers are rife, and the region has the highest infant mortality rate in the former USSR.’

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George W. Bush was still completely wrong about Iraq’s WMDs

Matt Purple writes for Rare:

‘Yesterday the New York Times published a major scoop: American troops had uncovered chemical weapons during the Iraq war, and on at least six occasions were injured by chemical agents. The government then frantically tried to conceal the WMDs, keeping the information classified and, in some cases, denying soldiers care for chemical-related injuries.

There are plenty of conclusions to draw from the Times story.

That the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq is vindicated is not one of them.

The Times reports that many of the chemical weapons were empty, most were unusable, and all were manufactured before 1991. This fits with the current wisdom that Saddam Hussein abandoned his chemical weapons program after the First Gulf War.

As the Times concludes, “The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.”

Still that hasn’t stopped many conservatives from engaging in a little hackneyed told-you-so. “Put that ‘Bush lied, kids died’ in your pipes and smoke it!!!” went today’s typical Tweet.’

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Sources: Libya asks chemical weapons watchdog to remove stockpile

Anthony Deutsch reports for Reuters:

‘Libya has asked the global chemical weapons watchdog to draw up plans to ship a stockpile of 850 tonnes of chemicals overseas due to deteriorating security, sources have told Reuters. Diplomats and officials said that transporting the toxins abroad for destruction, as was recently done in Syria, is the most viable option to keep them out of the hands of battling militant groups.

Since the removal of Muammar Qaddafi three years ago, the country has descended into anarchy, with rival militias and hardline Islamic groups battling for political control and vast oil reserves. Facilities to destroy the chemical weapons were set up and Libyans were trained to use the equipment, but fighting threatens stability and has made it impossible to safely conduct their work.’

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Deadly plague and botulism microbes found in US lab

BBC News reports:

Bubonic plague bacteria‘A number of long-forgotten deadly microbes have been uncovered in US government laboratories. The highly poisonous substances were found in a hunt triggered by the accidental discovery in July of vials of smallpox at a lab in the National Institutes of Health near Washington.

They included vials of ricin and pathogens that cause botulism, the plague and a rare tropical infection. The substances, some dating from nearly a century ago, have now been destroyed. Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said some of its laboratories were cleared to use poisonous substances and were checked regularly. But the recent finds were from historical collections that were once allowed to be stored without regulation.’

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US warns ISIS could get ahold of Syria’s chemical weapons

The Associated Press reports:

Ambassador: Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador the the United Nations, said the U.S. is concerned not only that President Bashar Assad's regime still has chemical weapons, but that any  left behind could end up in the hands of ISIS‘The United States is concerned that the Islamic State group and other terrorists could get a hold of chemical weapons if Syria is hiding any stockpiles, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday. Samantha Power spoke to reporters after the Security Council received a briefing from Sigrid Kaag, who heads the international effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

The joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the prohibition of Chemical Weapons will end at the end of the month after destroying nearly all of Syria’s declared stockpile. But Kaag said the OPCW is still working with Syria to resolve discrepancies in its declaration, which she said range from outdated records to discrepancies on the volume of materials. Power said the U.S. is concerned not only that President Bashar Assad’s regime still has chemical weapons but that any stockpiles left behind could end up in the hands of the Islamic State group, which has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq.’

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The five biggest threats to human existence

Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute writes for The Conversation:

A nuclear bomb blast‘In the daily hubbub of current “crises” facing humanity, we forget about the many generations we hope are yet to come. Not those who will live 200 years from now, but 1,000 or 10,000 years from now. I use the word “hope” because we face risks, called existential risks, that threaten to wipe out humanity. These risks are not just for big disasters, but for the disasters that could end history.

These risks remain understudied. There is a sense of powerlessness and fatalism about them. People have been talking apocalypses for millennia, but few have tried to prevent them. Humans are also bad at doing anything about problems that have not occurred yet (partially because of the availability heuristic – the tendency to overestimate the probability of events we know examples of, and underestimate events we cannot readily recall).

If humanity becomes extinct, at the very least the loss is equivalent to the loss of all living individuals and the frustration of their goals. But the loss would probably be far greater than that. Human extinction means the loss of meaning generated by past generations, the lives of all future generations (and there could be an astronomical number of future lives) and all the value they might have been able to create. If consciousness or intelligence are lost, it might mean that value itself becomes absent from the universe. This is a huge moral reason to work hard to prevent existential threats from becoming reality. And we must not fail even once in this pursuit.

With that in mind, I have selected what I consider the five biggest threats to humanity’s existence. But there are caveats that must be kept in mind, for this list is not final.’

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Pentagon: U.S. ship finishes neutralizing Syria’s worst chemical arms

David Alexander reports for Reuters:

‘A specially equipped U.S. ship has finished neutralizing all 600 metric tons of the most dangerous of Syria’s chemical weapons components surrendered to the international community this year to avert threatened air strikes, the Pentagon said on Monday. It said the Cape Ray, equipped with the U.S.-developed Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, neutralized 581.5 metric tons of DF, a sarin precursor chemical, and 19.8 metric tons of HD, an ingredient of sulfur mustard, while afloat in the Mediterranean.

The vessel will travel to Finland and Germany in the next two weeks to unload the resulting effluent, which will undergo treatment as industrial waste to render it safer, a Pentagon spokeswoman said. It was the first time chemical weapons components had been neutralized at sea, the Pentagon said. Damascus agreed last September to a Russian proposal to give up its chemical weapons to avert threatened military strikes by the United States and France, which accused Syria of using the arms against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.’

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Hundreds of bioterror lab mishaps cloaked in secrecy

Alison Young reports for USA Today:

CDC scientist at work‘More than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012, government reports obtained by USA TODAY show. More than half these incidents were serious enough that lab workers received medical evaluations or treatment, according to the reports. In five incidents, investigations confirmed that laboratory workers had been infected or sickened; all recovered.

In two other incidents, animals were inadvertently infected with contagious diseases that would have posed significant threats to livestock industries if they had spread. One case involved the infection of two animals with hog cholera, a dangerous virus eradicated from the USA in 1978. In another incident, a cow in a disease-free herd next to a research facility studying the bacteria that cause brucellosis, became infected due to practices that violated federal regulations, resulting in regulators suspending the research and ordering a $425,000 fine, records show.

But the names of the labs that had mishaps or made mistakes, as well as most information about all of the incidents, must be kept secret because of federal bioterrorism laws, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates the labs and co-authored the annual lab incident reports with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.’

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Lapses at high-security CDC labs reveal culture of negligence

Noelle Swan writes for Christian Science Monitor:

‘Revelations of safety breaches at federal biosecurity laboratories reveal gaping holes in safety protocols, a lack of independent oversight, and an apparent culture of hubris among researchers who work with dangerous biological agents, biosecurity experts say.

In the past week, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced three separate incidents:

  • In June, scientists at the CDC’s Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Advanced Technology lab exposed 80 unprotected workers to pathogenic anthrax.
  • Weeks earlier, the CDC’s influenza lab shipped samples of a benign avian flu virus that had been cross-contaminated with more pernicious strain to a US Department of Agriculture facility.
  • Researchers at a Federal Drug Administration lab operated by National Institutes and Health uncovered long forgotten vials containing the smallpox virus circa 1954 that were supposed to be consigned to international repositories.

The incidents have shone a light on a broader issue of lapses in safety and security at bio labs operated and funded by the federal government.’

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Micah Zenko: “Most reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by Assad regime”

Micah Zenko writes for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Syria-StatsEstimates released today [April 1st] by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) portray a different picture of the civil war in Syria than U.S. policymakers and media convey. SOHR’s estimated death toll reinforces the point made in an article published on ForeignPolicy.com in September 2013, when they last released updated data: most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command. Additionally, the involvement of various individuals and groups in the conflict has broadened greatly since SOHR’s September 2013 estimate.

Despite the potential bias and the methodological challenges it faces, SOHR has unrelentingly compiled casualty data since the start of the conflict in Syria more than three years ago. While the United Nations (UN) last updated its estimated death toll in July 2013 at 100,000 killed, and has since stated it will no longer provide updates, SOHR’s update released today estimates a total of 150,344 people killed since March 2011. SOHR’s estimates are presented below.

There are two noticeably provocative elements of SOHR’s estimates. First, while estimates for rebel force casualties were a separate category in SOHR’s previous estimates, SOHR has now included rebel force casualties (24,275) within civilian casualties, totaling 75,487. Above, rebel forces have been listed separately, which reveals that, according to SOHR’s estimates, more pro-regime forces than civilians have been killed during the Syrian civil war.

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French scientists: We’ve lost SARS virus vials

From The Local:

Photo: Frederic Brown/AFPFrance’s distinguished Institut Pasteur, which was among the first to isolate HIV in the 1980s, admitted on Monday that it has lost some 2,349 vials in 29 boxes, containing samples of the deadly SARS virus.

During a recent inventory researchers realized the vials were unaccounted for and so called in France’s drug and health safety agency “l’Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé” to help with the search, according to a statement from Institut Pasteur.

The drug and health safety people spent four days, from April 4th-12th, doing an ‘in depth’ investigation at the unnamed lab in question and came up empty handed as well.

SARS is not the kind of virus you’d want floating around.

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Potential Turkish Role in Syria Chemical Strike That Almost Sparked U.S. Bombing: Interview with Seymour Hersh

‘Was Turkey behind last year’s Syrian chemical weapons attack? That is the question raised in a new exposé by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh on the intelligence debate over the deaths of hundreds of Syrians in Ghouta last year. The United States, and much of the international community, blamed forces loyal to the Assad government, almost leading to a U.S. attack on Syria. But Hersh reveals the U.S. intelligence community feared Turkey was supplying sarin gas to Syrian rebels in the months before the attack took place — information never made public as President Obama made the case for launching a strike. Hersh joins us to discuss his findings.’ (Democracy Now!)

1950s: Army tests mosquitoes, fleas as biological weapons

Marc Valero reports for Highlands Today:

JONATHAN W. THOMAS/U.S. ARMYA military attack with about 230,000 mosquitoes infected with yellow fever would be difficult to detect and would be impossible for a nation to react quickly with a mass-immunization program, the U.S. Army Chemical Corps believed in the 1950s.

The corps put its theory to a test in two locations – Savannah, Ga. and the Avon Park Air Force Range.

With tests called Operation Big Buzz, Operation Big Itch and Operation Drop Kick, the corps explored the feasibility of using fleas and mosquitoes as weapons.

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Deadly chemical weapons, buried and lost, lurk under U.S. soil

David Zucchino reports for the LA Times:

…Even as the United States pushes Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction in a matter of months, this country has struggled for decades with its own deadly stockpiles.

Redstone Arsenal, in the swampy lowlands of northern Alabama, is the largest of the 249 sites in 40 states and territories where chemical weapons remain buried and await cleanup at a cost of billions of dollars. Just outside the Redstone gates is Huntsville, a city of nearly 200,000 residents.

As World War II ended, the United States military collected chemical weapons from Nazi Germany and Japan, as well as from British and American stockpiles. A million chemical weapon munitions marked for storage or disposal were shipped to Redstone, where the U.S. had produced blister agents and other chemical weapons during the war.

Some of the material was burned or blown up. Some was stored in stockpiles. What remained was stacked in trenches and buried.

Today a toxic stew of some of the most lethal weapons ever devised rests beneath the surface: Nazi mustard, a liquid blister agent. Lewisite, another blister agent. Adamsite, a vomiting agent. And possibly Nazi tabun, a nerve agent. Also buried are containers of white phosphorus, chlorine, smoke bombs, tear gas and incendiary bombs.

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Chomsky: From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Vietnam to Fallujah, State Power Ignores Its Massive Harm

‘World-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MITProfessor Noam Chomsky traveled to Japan last week ahead of the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima crisis. Chomsky, now 85 years old, met with Fukushima survivors, including families who evacuated the area after the meltdown. “[It’s] particularly horrifying that this is happening in Japan with its unique, horrendous experiences with the impact of nuclear explosions, which we don’t have to discuss,” Chomsky says. “And it’s particularly horrifying when happening to children — but unfortunately, this is what happens all the time.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

Russia’s Vladimir Putin Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

Nick Robins-Early writes for The Huffington Post:

President Vladimir Putin has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, according to director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute Geir Lundestad. The announcement on Wednesday comes at an awkward time as Russia currently stands accused of invading Ukraine, something most people recognize as one of the most un-peaceful things a leader can do.

Voice of Russia notes that the nomination had likely been submitted back in October, when Putin had just acted as a main figure in the deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. This didn’t take into account that Putin was also providing Syria with conventional weapons, but such is the way the Nobel Peace Prize works. It’s a system much like the Pulitzer Prize, where it’s actually surprisingly easy to get nominated for the award and often doesn’t really mean anything.

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Libya destroys last chemical weapons with Western help

A team of Libyan experts and military engineers dump away fuel from expired SA-2 missiles, under the supervision of the United Nations, in Tripoli November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail ZitounyFrom Reuters:

Libya has destroyed with the help of Western countries the last known large stockpile of chemical weapons from the era of Muammar Gaddafi, officials said on Tuesday. Western countries had been concerned that the weapons might fall into the hands of Islamist militants and regional militias as the North African state grapples with widespread disorder more than two years after the uprising that ousted Gaddafi.

Militia groups and armed tribesmen control parts of a vast OPEC-member country awash with arms where the Tripoli government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has struggled to enforce its authority much beyond the capital Tripoli. Libya began dismantling its poison gas program after signing the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2004 but the operation ground to a halt in 2011 when the NATO-backed uprising against Gaddafi broke out.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz told reporters that U.S., Canadian and German experts had helped destroy the chemical weapons stockpile in a region of southern Libya.

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