This seemed an especially busy week in homeland security. There were several developments at DHS, DOD, on the Hill and otherwise that deserve more attention, but given time available, personal preferences, and the unfolding of events, I have not brought the stories to this blog. Readers are invited to use the comment function to highlight issues you want to be sure are not ignored in the rush of events.
HLSwatch has given considerable attention overtime to the homeland security policy/strategy implications of developments in the Hindu Kush and in global epidemiology (floods, wild fires, and fusion centers are also toward the top of our priority list). This week’s news, unfortunately, seemed to confirm some of our worst worries regarding Afpak thugs and the morphing of tiny bugs. Here are some Saturday morning headlines to tie up loose ends:
Human error is now being blamed for the huge South Carolina fire. In Florida a major transportation route is likely to remain closed due to fires.
Most media are mostly focusing on a Taliban retreat from Buner, but it seems to me this morning’s Reuters report is closer to correct: Flux in Pakistani Valley after Taliban Retreat. General David Petreaus makes the case for why the US has a big stake in the outcome, in a late Friday Washington Post report.
Another case of Swine Flu has been diagnosed in San Diego County. New York Public health authorities are testing for a possible outbreak in Queens. The official World Health Organization statement on the situation in Mexico is worth a long quote:
The Government of Mexico has reported three separate events. In the Federal District of Mexico, surveillance began picking up cases of ILI starting 18 March. The number of cases has risen steadily through April and as of 23 April there are now more than 854 cases of pneumonia from the capital. Of those, 59 have died. In San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico, 24 cases of ILI, with three deaths, have been reported. And from Mexicali, near the border with the United States, four cases of ILI, with no deaths, have been reported.
Of the Mexican cases, 18 have been laboratory confirmed in Canada as Swine Influenza A/H1N1, while 12 of those are genetically identical to the Swine Influenza A/H1N1 viruses from California.
The majority of these cases have occurred in otherwise healthy young adults. Influenza normally affects the very young and the very old, but these age groups have not been heavily affected in Mexico.
Because there are human cases associated with an animal influenza virus, and because of the geographical spread of multiple community outbreaks, plus the somewhat unusual age groups affected, these events are of high concern. (See Chris Bellavita’s explanation of pandemic code words)
The Swine Influenza A/H1N1 viruses characterized in this outbreak have not been previously detected in pigs or humans. The viruses so far characterized have been sensitive to oseltamivir, but resistant to both amantadine and rimantadine.
I am self-conscious regarding insufficient reporting on cybersecurity in my posts. As with viral mutation and the Hindu Kush, cybersecurity deserves sustained and serious attention now, while catastrophe can still be avoided. Fortunately, others are ably filling this gap. Marc Ambinder provides a helpful report via The Atlantic, including a transcript of Melissa Hathaway’s RSA speech, which is worth a careful read.
The Washington Post reports that plans are advancing to have the Federal government reimburse state expenses for deploying National Guard troops in a variety of roles supportive of border security. Whether the troops would serve under Title 10 or Title 32 is not clear. Southern border Governors have issued a joint request for more National Guard funding to support increased border security.
The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board cited serious errors — and an attempted legal obfuscation – by Bayer CropScience of Institute, West Virginia. The Board was investigating an August 2008 blast that killed two. See a New York Times report.
(The final two reports seem to have disappeared and were restored on Monday, April 27)