An international team wants to closely watch how future technologies could make the world’s deadliest poisons easier to produce and harder to regulate.
It is still impossible to know how an array of emerging technologies — such as custom-built proteins and microscopic containers — will affect capabilities to manufacture and deliver lethal chemicals banned under international law, scientific advisers to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a new assessment.
International authorities should continue monitoring the potential of biotechnology to affect enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, even though developments relevant to the production of banned chemical agents “are currently limited,” says the final report by a working group of the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board.
Despite the field’s present limitations, “biomediated processes might still be effective for producing weaponizable quantities of toxins that are lethal,” the report warns. “New production processes, combined with developments in drug discovery and delivery, could be exploited in the development of new toxic chemicals that could be used as weapons.”
The panel added that the agency’s mandate hems in its enforcement authority, potentially complicating any global effort to oversee biological innovations that fall in a gray area of international law.
The Chemical Weapons Convention may not require member nations to report “many facilities taking advantage of biologically mediated production processes,” the advisory panel said in its report. The group added that the treaty exempts numerous activities that “may be scientifically justified” for peaceful purposes, such as producing biofuel or alcoholic drinks.
The report also calls for routine consultations with officials responsible for overseeing a separate international ban on biological arms. OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü three years ago directed his agency’s scientific advisers to consider how the organization’s enforcement tasks may be affected by the ongoing “convergence” of chemical and biological sciences.
The panel advised Üzümcü to discuss convergence issues with overseers of the Biological Weapons Convention.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.