Morning Security Brief: CDC Mistakenly Sends Out Live Anthrax, People Displaced by Conflict Reaches World War II Highs, and More

By Megan Gates

► The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that it accidentally sent live anthrax virus last Friday to fellow scientists in two lower-security clearance labs at the agency. Seventy-five CDC staff were exposed to live anthrax, but no instances of illness have been reported. “The initial safety lapse occurred in the CDC’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology laboratory, a high security lab that was trying out a new protocol for inactivating anthrax, using chemicals instead of radiation,” Reuters reports. According to CDC disclosures, scientists at the Bioterror Rapid Response lab had been preparing “an especially dangerous strain of the bacteria” that was to be sent to two-lower security CDC labs after it had been inactivated as part of an experiment on methods to identify anthrax sent to the United States quicker. The experimental inactivation failed, but the bacteria appeared to be dead and was mistakenly sent to the two labs for further experimentation before scientists realized the mistake.

► The number of people displaced by violent conflict at the end of 2013, hit the highest level since World War II, according to a new United Nations (UN) report released today. The war in Syria has played a major role in increasing the number of displaced individuals, pushing the total up to more than 51 million at the end of last year, the agency’s Global Trends reports. Half of the world’s displaced people are children and of the 51 million, 33.3 million people fled violence but remained in their own country and 16.7 million refugees fled to neighboring countries. “What this demonstrates is that the international community today has very limited capacity to prevent conflicts and to find timely solutions,” said António Guterres, head of the UN refugee agency, to The New York Times. “We see the Security Council paralyzed in many crucial crises.”

► Following in Apple and Samsung’s footsteps, Google and Microsoft are preparing to add a kill-switch feature to their Android and Windows phones. The feature makes the phones useless if they are stolen and authorities have been “urging tech firms to take steps to help curb phone theft,” arguing that the kill-switch feature might be the answer to the problem, the BBC reports.

► President Barack Obama is preparing to send 300 U.S. military advisers to aid the Iraqi army in its battle against insurgency forces sweeping the nation. Obama’s plan was announced yesterday in a statement at the White House and said the U.S. is prepared to take additional “targeted” action in Iraq if necessary, Bloomberg reports. The advisers will work with the Iraqi army to establish joint operations centers to help coordinate intelligence and planning efforts with the Iraqis. However, American troops will not be returning for combat in the country.


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