Botox: Bioterrorism threat?

Researchers worry that an underground network of illicit Botox suppliers would sell the underlying toxin to terrorists hell-bent on contaminating water or food supplies. The anti-wrinkle treatment has a miniscule amount of the lethal toxin, but the same organized crime syndicates making counterfeit Botox could sell the toxin to terrorists. An al-Qaeda training manual discovered in 2001 advocated the use of botulinum toxin in terrorist attacks.

A speck of toxin smaller than a grain of sand can kill a 150-pound adult. A biologist with a master’s degree and $2,000 worth of equipment could easily make a gram of pure toxin, an amount equal to the weight of a small paper clip but enough, in theory, to kill thousands of people.

Source: “Officials fear toxic ingredient in Botox could become terrorist tool,” The Washington Post, 25 January 2010

Implications: The black market in a cosmetic treatment could lead to terrorists contaminating water or food supplies to create mass casualties. Presumably the counterfeiters would sell toxin to the highest bidder. Continue reading “Botox: Bioterrorism threat?”

The president-elect will face big problems, threats

It’ll be a short honeymoon. The next U.S. president will face high expectations (which may be impossible to fulfill), a recessionary economy and huge budget deficits. And that’s just domestically. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, gave a speech this week that lays out the broader threats. As The Washington Post reported:

The next U.S. president will govern in an era of increasing international instability, including a heightened risk of terrorist attacks in the near future, long-term prospects of regional conflicts and diminished U.S. dominance across the globe, the nation’s top intelligence officer said Thursday.

Competition for energy, water and food will drive conflicts between nations to a degree not seen in decades, and climate change and global economic upheaval will amplify the effects, [McConnell said].

“After the new president-elect’s excitement subsides after winning the election, it is going to be dampened somewhat when he begins to focus on the realities of the myriad of changes and challenges,” he said.

Of course, besides the predictable conflicts and threats, “there is always surprise,” McConnell said. (Futurists call ’em wild cards.)

Continue reading “The president-elect will face big problems, threats”

Our fragile infrastructure

Friday the 13th was a traffic and commuting nightmare in the center of Washington, D.C. A power outage in the neighborhood of the White House, plus two fires along the subway tracks, created a traffic mess. Few intersections had traffic police to sort out the traffic chaos. Electricity was cut to scores of office buildings and several subway stations. Subway patrons were trapped in dark tunnels, but subway officials had no flashlights to hand out. New emergency backup generators weren’t used. Three pedestrians were hit by cars where traffic lights were out.

In other words: total bedlam. Emergency response was terrible. Communications was poor.

No terrorism was involved.

As The Washington Post (14 June 2008) put it:

A single switch in a Pepco substation failed yesterday morning, cutting power to the heart of the nation’s capital, including the White House and downtown offices. The outage shut down Metro stations, threw rush-hour traffic into a state of bedlam and highlighted how vulnerable the city can be.

“It was like each man for himself. Trucks were pulling out in front of buses; people were on the street. It was like a Third World country,” said David Zaidain, 34, a city planner who was stunned by the level of anarchy he encountered while walking to work along Ninth Street NW. “We’re living under this veil of potential terror, and this is how the city responds to something like this?”

Continue reading “Our fragile infrastructure”

Top five political issues in the U.S., 2007

Top five political issues in the U.S. (November 2007)

Issues cited as either a first or second priority, by all polled adults (regardless of political party)

  1. Iraq (46%)
  2. Health care (34%)
  3. Jobs/economic growth (27%)
  4. Illegal immigration (24%)
  5. Terrorism (23%)

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Source: Wall Street Journal / NBC News telephone poll of 1,509 adults, conducted in early November (reported 19 November 2007). Note: The margin of error is +/- 2.5 percentage points, so the difference between Nos. 4 and 5 is negligible.

Related: Poll: Americans are gloomy about the future

CFOs predict: The top business risks through 2009

Top five business risks through 2009:

  1. Competition
  2. Pricing and currency
  3. Economy
  4. Supply chain
  5. Property*

* Fire/explosion, mechanical/electrical breakdown, natural disaster

Note: 62% of financial executives expect risk from competition to increase through 2009, while only 4% expect it to decrease.

Top five emerging business risks through 2009:

  1. Change in competition
  2. Government/regulation
  3. Pricing volatility
  4. Variable client demand
  5. Political threat

Note: Terrorism, and pandemic, ranked very low.

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Base: Survey of 500 financial executives in North America and Europe (including CFOs and treasurers) who work for companies with at least US$500 million or more in annual revenue.

Source: “Managing Business Risk Through 2009 and Beyond,” FM Global, a property and casualty insurer, Johnston, R.I., May 2007

Related: What CFOs worry about