Middle Eastern intelligence officials are concerned that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime could for the first time deploy biological weapons in retaliation to an expected U.S. missile strike, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Senior-ranking spy officials from two Middle Eastern nations anonymously told the Post that they have studied the possibility of Syrian biological attacks in response to Western strikes on the Syrian capital. The United States is seeking to build international support around limited cruise missile attacks on the Assad regime as punishment for its widely suspected Aug. 21 gas attack on Syrian civilians in the Damascus suburbs.
“We are worried about sarin, but Syria also has biological weapons, and compared to those, sarin is nothing,” one of the interviewed officials said. “We know it, and others in the region know it. The Americans certainly know it.”
Details of Syria’s research and development of biological weapons remain somewhat mysterious. A 2008 analysis by a Washington think tank concluded that the military likely had established the ability to produce, at a minimum, botulism and anthrax.
Jill Bellamy van Aalst, a biodefense adviser to NATO, said Syria in recent years has acquired much pharmaceutical equipment that is “dual use.” Though it may be used for valid health research, the technology also could be used to produce pathogens for weaponizing, the Post cited her as saying.
“You don’t stockpile biological weapons anymore, because today it’s all about production capacity — and in Syria the production capacity is quite substantial,” the biodefense consultant said.
Syria reportedly possesses the equipment necessary for modifying pathogens into aerosol or powder form — the better for dispersal in military attacks. There is disagreement among U.S. officials about just how advanced a potential Syrian biological attack would be.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."