FBI says it easily replicated anthrax used in attacks

first_img At the same time, officials conceded that they probably will never be able to dispel all doubts about the case against Bruce E. Ivins, the anthrax researcher who died in an apparent suicide as the FBI was about to announce charges against him. According to a New York Times report on the press conference, FBI officials said investigators determined that the making of the powder was a relatively simple process of cleaning and drying anthrax spores. “FBI scientists easily reproduced it with gear that Ivins regularly used,” the article stated. Aug 15 CIDRAP News storyhttp://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/anthrax/news/aug1508anthrax.html The FBI has said its experts and other scientists helping with the investigation developed a new DNA fingerprinting technique that enabled them to match the anthrax used in the attacks with a batch of anthrax that was in Ivins’ custody, known as RMR-1029. The agency has not released a detailed scientific report on the DNA evidence. Aside from that claim, the case against Ivins is mostly circumstantial, and a number of scientists have voiced doubts about it. At an Aug 18 news conference, the agency also acknowledged a specific error in the investigation and promised to release detailed information on the probe in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Aug 20, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The FBI, seeking to counter scientific skepticism on its investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, insisted this week that the anthrax powder could have been made by one person and contained no “intentional additives” to make it more dispersible. The FBI then realized the sample was the same strain used in the attacks, which helped confirm other evidence implicating Ivins, the Times reported. “Looking at it in hindsight, we would do things differently today,” the newspaper quoted Majidi as saying. In addition, Dr. C.J. Peters, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said it is puzzling that the FBI has not reported finding traces of the letter anthrax in places where Ivins lived and worked, given how widely the spores were dispersed in settings such as the Washington, DC, post office that processed the letters mailed to senators. As expected, the FBI’s new revelations did not eliminate skepticism about the case. Dr. Richard Spertzel, a retired microbiologist who led the United Nations’ biological weapons inspections in Iraq, called the FBI’s new presentation “a pretty tenuous argument,” according to the Times. He specifically questioned the agency’s claim that the letter anthrax was not “military grade.” However, silicon was found in the mailed anthrax (as reported previously), and FBI officials conceded that the duplicate powder they made did not match the letter anthrax in that respect, according to reports by the Times and the Washington Post. FBI scientists said they concluded that the high level of silicon occurred naturally in the anthrax used in the attacks, the Times reported. Further, Majidi said the information released this week was “the first step toward broader dissemination of the scientific information surrounding this case. Additional information will be available through peer-reviewed publications and I ask you to respect the integrity of this process.” But it turned out that an extra copy of Ivins’ sample was kept by Paul Keim, a Northern Arizona University biologist who helped with the investigation, and he provided it to the FBI when the agency asked for it in 2006, according to the Post. “It is important to emphasize that the science used in this case is highly validated and well accepted throughout the scientific community. The novelty is in the application of these techniques for forensic microbiology.” The investigative error acknowledged by the FBI this week had to do with the handling of the first anthrax sample they obtained from Ivins. According to the Times, FBI officials revealed that they first obtained a sample of a unique strain of anthrax from him in 2002 and that it could have led them to the strain used in the attacks. However, the agency “destroyed the sample because Dr. Ivins did not follow protocol in the way it was submitted, making it more difficult to use in court,” the story said. “Through a comprehensive analytical approach, the investigators were provided with validated scientific data which linked the material used in the 2001 anthrax attacks to material from USAMRIID identified as RMR-1029,” Majidi said. In his Aug 18 written statement, Majidi listed several sophisticated techniques that were used in analyzing the mailed anthrax: scanning and transmission electron microscopy, energy dispersive x-ray analysis, carbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry, and inductively coupled plasma-optical emission and mass spectrometry. “I would contend that anywhere he made the powder or manipulated the powder was almost certainly contaminated,” Peters told CIDRAP news by e-mail. “Think about the pos[itive] nasal swabs in the Hart office building or environmental swabs in the post office. Look at the spore counts on the protective gear when the Leahy letter was detected.” The mailing of anthrax-laced letters to two US senators and several media offices in the fall of 2001, shortly after the Sep 11 terrorist attacks, killed five people and sickened 17 others. The FBI outlined its case against Ivins on Aug 6 of this year, just 9 days after he died of an overdose of painkillers. Ivins had worked for years at the US Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Maryland. “I don’t think we’re ever going to put the suspicions to bed,” said Vahid Majidi, assistant director of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, as quoted in press accounts. “There’s always going to be a spore on a grassy knoll.” Early in the investigation, the FBI indicated that the mailed anthrax was a weaponized product, treated or processed to make it spread more easily through the air and penetrate deep into the lungs. It was reported that the powder contained silicon and that Army experts had been unable to replicate the material. The implication was that one person working alone would not have been able to produce the powder. But in a statement presented at this week’s news conference, Majidi said, “There were no intentional additives combined with the Bacillus anthracis spores to make them any more dispersible.” In other information given at the news conference, officials said the Institute for Genomic Research had sequenced the full DNA of several anthrax strains by 2002, suggesting it might be possible to link the letter anthrax to its source by identifying specific mutations, according to the Times. See also: It took another year to identify the four distinctive mutations the FBI has reported, the story said. Meanwhile, the FBI collected more than 1,000 samples of the Ames strain of anthrax, the strain used in the attacks, and started using its genetic test on them. The FBI found that 8 of the 1,000 samples carried the four mutations, as reported previously. According to the Times, 100 scientists had access to or were associated with those eight samples, and all of them were investigated. The body of evidence pointed to Ivins, the story said.last_img read more

Rain has final say as cricket returns

first_img(ESPNCricinfo) – After months of pain-staking preparation, cricket’s long-awaited return was held up not by bio-security protocols, the addition of saliva to a ball or a shortage of hand sanitiser – but by the weather. Perhaps it was inevitable after months of sunshine in the UK that rain and bad light would play their all-too-familiar parts, but that did little to lessen the disappointment as only 17.4 overs were possible at the Ageas Bowl.During the three small windows of play possible, England dug in after stand-in captain Ben Stokes won the toss and chose to bat, as Rory Burns and Joe Denly led the recovery after the loss of Dom Sibley only 10 balls into the innings. It looked like a good toss to lose, with overcast skies offering assistance for seamers but the pitch seemingly slowish underneath a firmer top.Jason Holder said he was “not too disheartened” to be bowling first and asked for “discipline” from his bowlers, after opting to pick an extra batsman in Jermaine Blackwood and fielding four frontline quicks including himself.So, 117 days after the last ball in international cricket – a Pat Cummins bouncer which Trent Boult slashed at to offer a steepling return catch in Sydney – Burns defended Kemar Roach into the off side to get proceedings underway, but in all the teams managed just 82 minutes of action.The delayed start offered a chance for Sky – whose £1.1 billion, five-year broadcast deal had given the ECB such an imperative to get this series on – to show off all the new toys in their coverage. Those included a new Big Brother-style diary room for mid-match player interactions and the robot that filled in for a presenter at the toss, but the build-up was primarily dominated by more important issues.Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent spoke candidly and openly about their experiences of racism, and players and staff from both teams took a knee before Kemar Roach’s first ball, as a sign of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. England wore the names of key workers on their training shirts, and observed a minute’s silence to remember both those who died during the pandemic and the late Sir Everton Weekes.If there were any concerns that the unprecedented circumstances might in some way distract players from the task at hand, West Indies’ opening bowlers made sure that England’s top order were unable to lose focus. Roach started immaculately, finding hints of movement, while in his first over Shannon Gabriel jagged a length ball in off the seam which Sibley ill-advisedly left alone, turning round to see his off stump pegged back.Gabriel’s opening burst was slightly wayward at times, but despite his status as a late addition to the squad after being asked to prove he had overcome his ankle injury, he regularly hit 90mph/145kph and found late movement as the ball passed the bat.He nearly accounted for Denly in his fifth over, who edged him with hard hands through the vacant fourth-slip reason for four, while Roach nagged away from the Hotel End, landing the ball on a sixpence in the off-stump channel.Burns and Denly found scoring slightly easier against Alzarri Joseph – included ahead of Rahkeem Cornwall as West Indies decided to back Roston Chase as their only main spin option – before bad light intervened around teatime. A combination of drizzle and dark cloud kept the teams off the pitch until the umpires eventually decided they had seen enough just before 18.15hrs.The main talking point overnight had been Stuart Broad’s omission from the England team, which Ben Stokes admitted had been “a very tough decision” as he opted to partner Mark Wood with Jofra Archer for the first time in Test cricket.Broad and Chris Woakes, the other man to miss out from England’s 13-man squad, “took it like champions” according to Stokes, presumably in the knowledge that an opportunity would arise later in the series. James Anderson described England’s schedule – which features six Tests in the space of seven weeks – as “gruelling”, and rotation will be an inevitable feature of the summer.There was almost a breach of social-distancing protocols as soon as the coin had landed at the toss when Stokes’ attempted fist bump was met by Holder’s handshake, but with so little time in the middle it was hard to draw any conclusions about the new normal.The broadcasters pumped in a low-level hum of crowd noise, which was conspicuous only when it failed to turn into a ripple of polite applause after each boundary, but the ICC’s ban on the use of saliva may only be noticed when the ball gets older.SCOREBOARD ENGLAND 1st InningsR Burns not out 20D Sibley b Gabriel 0J Denley not out 14Extras (nb1) 1TOTAL (wkt 1, 17.4 overs) 35Fall of wicket: 1-0 (Sibley).To bat: Z Crawley, O Pope, *B Stokes, +J Buttler, J Anderson, J Archer, D Bess, M Wood.Bowling: Roach 6-4-2-0, Gabriel 5-1-19-1, Joseph 3.4-1-11-0, Holder 3-1-3-0.WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), John Campbell, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel.UMPIRES: Richard Kettleborough, Richard Illingworth; TV – Michael Gough.last_img read more

UEFA President’s Honour for Beckham

first_imgFormer England captain David Beckham will receive the UEFA President’s Award for his contribution to football and promoting the sport in “every corner of the planet”.Beckham played for Manchester United, La Galaxy, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Paris St-Germain in a 20-year career.His “tireless humanitarian efforts” were also praised by UEFA. Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram “Beckham is a true football icon of his generation,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.Previous winners of the award – which “recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities” – include Johan Cruyff, Bobby Charlton, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Robson and Paolo Maldini.Beckham, 43, made 115 appearances for England and won 19 club trophies, including 10 league titles.“I am proud to join the illustrious list of players who have previously won this award,” said Beckham, who is also an UNICEF ambassador and owner of a Major League Soccer team in Miami.He will receive the award in Monaco later this year.last_img read more

Women’s soccer returns home trying to put first loss behind them

first_imgDespite suffering their first loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion last Sunday at Michigan, little has seemed to deter the confidence of the No. 13 Wisconsin women’s soccer team (7-1-0) as they return home for a weekend match against Nebraska (4-3-1) this Saturday.Following a series of successful road trips — which featured wins against Portland, Washington and Michigan State — Michigan put an end to the best start (7-0) in Wisconsin team history with a stunning final-second goal. The score came from Wolverines’ redshirt freshman forward Ani Sarkisian, which was her second goal of the night. Wisconsin fifth-year senior goalkeeper Genevieve Richard recorded a season-high six saves in the loss, while allowing just her third and fourth goal of the season in eight games played.At her weekly news conference Monday, Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins looked back at that final score and how things broke down.“I think the disappointing part of it was we had two times to clear it,” Wilkins said. “One, a free header at the very beginning, and the second one not-so-clear and we didn’t do such a great job. When we talk about getting better and taking care of things, that’s the things that we have to focus on and learn from and not let it happen again. I think it was a group focus.”Instead of dwelling over the frustrating defeat, however, junior midfielder Kinley McNicoll said the team has taken the high road and believes it’s a slip-up that will only make the team stronger in the end.“We are definitely going to use this loss as motivation and as a learning experience, and take our mistakes from the last game and fix them,” McNicoll said. “Hopefully they won’t carry into Nebraska on Saturday.”In a stinging twist of irony, the Badgers suffered an identical kind of loss in the final seconds of a game last year as well. And it was to none other than Nebraska at home. The Huskers went on to win the Big Ten Title last season.While it’s difficult for the team to not have last year’s result in the back of their mind, especially after last Sunday’s debacle, Wilkins believes this team has matured more than last season and is ready to focus on preparation for their Big Ten home opener.Perhaps the chance to play in front of their home crowd will be all the Badgers need to get back on track come Saturday. They have been virtually untouchable at home this season with a 4-0 record, 11 goals scored and only one allowed so far.McNicoll, who was been a focal point of the Badger’s offense thus far with six goals in eight games, believes an aggressive attack will work best against their Big Ten rivals.“I think we’re just going to have to use people’s individual talents to the best of our abilities and highlight the best parts of people’s games,” McNicoll said. “I think with the offense we have, we can do that, and we’ve got such a strong defense. We’re definitely going to test their backline and hope to push them back on their heels.”The Badgers are anxiously awaiting the return of star senior forward Cara Walls, who was on a blistering pace with seven goals in six games prior to missing the Michigan trip with an injury. Wilkins described Walls’ status as “day-to-day.”As she reflected back on the weekend, Wilkins acknowledged that the Badgers would have to introduce some new strategies against the Huskers to compensate for the potential absence of their top striker.“I think when you have your leading scorer [Walls] who is third in the country, out in both games, it’s a little bit challenging and we are really thin right now on the forward position,” Wilkins said. “So I think that also lended us to having to defend a little bit more because we couldn’t keep it up top and I think we have to find different ways to approach it against Nebraska.”Freshman midfielder Becca Harrison has offered a possibility for filling the void on offense. She made a name for herself last Friday against Michigan State, scoring both goals in Wisconsin’s 2-1 overtime win over the Spartans.Harrison’s two goals were the first and second of her Division I career, and they could not have come at a better time in the Big Ten season opener.“It was amazing to start off the Big Ten like that was just such a good feeling,” Harrison said. “I feel like a win like that just brings the team really close together, and it was just so fun to celebrate with everyone.”The Badgers’ defense could have their hands full Saturday against Nebraska sophomore forward Jaycie Johnson. Johnson is off to a commendable start this season with six goals and two assists tallied in eight games. The Huskers will look for redemption this weekend as well, as they are coming off a disappointing 3-0 home loss to Illinois last Sunday.The Badgers’ Big Ten home opener is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Saturday.last_img read more