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March 2018 News Round Up

Novichok Incident:

Two critical after Salisbury substance ‘exposure’ Two people are in a critical condition in hospital after being exposed to an “unknown substance”. The man and a woman were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping precinct in Salisbury on Sunday, Wiltshire Police said.
Russian spy poisoning At a joint briefing from Defra and Wiltshire Council in Salisbury this morning we heard that the Novichok used in the poisoning of the Skripals has not disappeared.
Sergei Skripal: Russia links attempted murder to deaths of Kremlin enemies Russia stepped up its war of words with Britain on Saturday as its embassy in London linked the attempted murder of double agent Sergei Skripal to the deaths of three exiled enemies of the Kremlin.
Russian spy latest: Sergei Skripal is a ‘traitor’, says swapped agent Anna Chapman A former Russian spy who was exchanged for poisoned double agent Sergei Skripal in a Cold War-style spy swap has labelled him a “traitor”.
Russian spy attack: What are Novichok nerve agents and what do they do? UK Prime Minister Theresa May has told parliament that a military-grade nerve agent was used in an attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal
Novichok: nerve agent produced at only one site in Russia, says expert The nerve agent novichok was developed and produced in Shikhany, home of a military research establishment in central Russia, according to a chemical weapons expert.
ScienceDirect Learn more about Novichok agents The Novichok class of agents were reportedly developed in an attempt to circumvent the Chemical Weapons Treaty (chemical weapons are banned on the basis of chemical structure and therefore a new chemical agent is not subject to past treaties).
Novichok agent – Part of a series on Chemical Agents Novichok (Russian: Новичо́к, “newcomer”) is a series of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union and Russia between 1971 and 1993.

News:

Package containing white powder sent to Houses of Parliament A suspicious package delivered to an office in the Houses of Parliament contained “non-harmful” white powder, a House of Commons spokeswoman has said.
A suspicious package delivered to an office in the Houses of Parliament contained “non-harmful” white powder, a House of Commons spokeswoman has said. The Metropolitan Police said that officers tested a substance in a package received at St James’s Palace, which the London Evening Standard said was a white powder. Other UK media reports said the package also contained a racist letter.
Syria: Chemical attack suspected in Eastern Ghouta siege A suspected chemical attack in Syria’s besieged Eastern Ghouta suburb left one child dead and more than a dozen civilians with symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas, according to health authorities in the opposition enclave and a monitoring group.
Lockheed Martin Receives $150 Million Contract to Deliver Integrated High Energy Laser Weapon Systems to U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin has won a US$150 million contract with options for another US$942 million to develop and manufacture two high-energy laser weapons for the US Navy.
DNA tests for UK’s nuclear bomb veterans Iran may pull out of its nuclear deal with international powers if Western banks continue to refuse doing business with the country over fear of American sanctions, Tehran’s deputy foreign minister has warned.
Research reactors: FORO, supported by IAEA, to create regulatory inspection manual Experts from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Spain and the IAEA met 26 February to 2 March in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, to launch work on the manual. References used in the development of the manual include an IAEA training manual on regulatory inspection programmes for research reactors that is under development.
Russia’s Putin unveils ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons During Vladimir Putin’s annual speech on Thursday, the Russian president played videos that unveiled brand-new nuclear weapons with startling capabilities.
North Korea: US military drills harm reconciliation North Korea has said it would not beg for talks with Washington, its official KCNA news agency reported on Saturday.
The US drills harm reconciliation efforts but North Korea will “counter the US” if the United States holds joint military exercises with South Korea, KCNA reported.
Fukushima’s long road to recovery It was supposed to be a day of celebration. But Rio Watanabe’s graduation ceremony became memorable for all the wrong reasons. Mr Watanabe, who was just 23 years old at the time, was in Tokyo when the ground started to shake.
Japan marks seventh anniversary of 3/11 with moment of silence At 2:46 p.m. on Sunday, Japan observed a moment of silence to mark the seventh anniversary of the mega-quake and tsunami that left about 18,000 people dead or missing while triggering the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Two taken to hospital after suspect package sent to MP Two people have been taken to hospital as a precaution after a “suspicious package” was delivered to an MP’s Westminster office.
Sandia Labs completes nuclear triathlon to test spent fuel safety Spent nuclear fuel needs to be safely transported from the power plants where it is generated to interim storage locations and eventually to a permanent geologic disposal site.
MBS: Saudis will pursue nuclear weapons if Iran does Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has announced his country’s readiness to develop nuclear weapons in the event that Iran heads in that direction.
Britain’s top diplomat accuses Putin of being behind Russian spy poisoning British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Friday it was “overwhelmingly likely” that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin was behind the poisoning of a Russian former spy, the most direct British accusation against the Russian leader to date
Iraq’s Halabja chemical attack haunts survivors 30 years on It has been 30 years since the government of Saddam Hussein launched a chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja in Iraq, killing thousands of people.

Technology:

Cephalopods could be the key to better camouflage Camouflage allows soldiers to blend into their surroundings, but the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) adopted by the US Army falls well short of the stealth capabilities of the squid and other cephalopods.
Shock-absorbing system may save soldiers’ lives Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering have developed a new military vehicle shock- absorbing device that may protect warfighters against traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to exposure to blasts caused by land mines. During Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, more than 250,000 warfighters were victims of such injuries.
South Korea establishes research centre to develop autonomous weapons As the United Nations continues to drag its heels on developing a clear international treaty relating to lethal autonomous weapons, South Korea has just announced a major investment in artificial intelligence and military systems with the goal of applying AI to various defense projects.
Common skin bacteria found to produce skin-cancer killing molecule Science continues to peel away layers of the skin microbiome to reveal its protective properties. In a study published in Science Advances on February 28, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report a potential new role for some bacteria on the skin: protecting against cancer.
Study Sheds Light on Radiation Treatment Fears Researchers say fears and misconceptions about radiation treatments are common among breast cancer patients, but the patients’ actual experiences with modern breast radiation therapy are better than they expected.
DARPA looks to slow biological time to save lives on the battlefield When a Service member suffers a traumatic injury or acute infection, the time from event to first medical treatment is usually the single most significant factor in determining the outcome between saving a life or not.
New synthetic polymer kills antibiotic-resistant superbugs from the inside out An international research team led by the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and IBM Research developed a synthetic molecule that can kill five deadly types of multidrug-resistant bacteria with limited, if any, side effects.
Malaria-resistant mosquitoes engineered using CRISPR Deleting a single gene from mosquitoes can make them highly resistant to the malaria parasite and thus much less likely to transmit the parasite to humans, according to a new paper from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Malaria Research Institute.
Rattlesnake venom extract helps strike back against superbugs Researchers have shown why a fragment of a protein from the venom gland of rattlesnakes could be the basis for an alternative to conventional antibiotics.

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