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AmeriScan: September 11, 2002

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Opinion: Bush Energy Policy Fuels Terrorists

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush Administration must rethink its energy policy if it is to succeed in the war on terrorism, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director James Woolsey said today. Woolsey served from 1993 to 1995 as President Bill Clinton's first CIA director, and previously as an arms-control negotiator for the United States in Europe.

Speaking on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon at the independent energy and environmental research center, Resources for the Future, Woolsey called on the president to reduce U.S. dependence on Middle East oil by:

  • encouraging the use of more fuel efficient hybrid cars
  • generating ethanol from biomass or waste
  • beefing up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to one billion barrels
  • increasing Russian oil production by 50 percent

"I have not been pleased with the president's energy policy, to put it mildly," Woolsey said. "I admire President Bush's effort in the fight against terror, but his energy policy goes against what he is trying to accomplish in that war."

Woolsey said people in the Middle East have some justification in thinking the U.S. has but one interest in the region - oil.

"They think we want to use it as a gas station, that we have no interest in the people," Woolsey explained. "They perceive that America is in bed with their own oppressive regimes, and believe our lack of willingness to stand up for human rights in their countries is based on our thirst and appetite for oil."

While the terrorists of al Qaeda are motivated by hatred of U.S. freedoms and envy of the nation's success, Woolsey said oil wealth in the Middle East was also fueling terrorism.

"They understand the leverage they hold has a lot to do with our own behavior, and we must start to understand that as well," he said.

Critical of both the Administration and Congress for rejecting plans to tighten fuel economy standards, Woolsey said the move to highly fuel efficient hybrid cars must be encouraged.

"We have five passenger hybrid cars in the dealerships now," Woolsey said, noting that these hybrids get fuel efficiencies of 50 miles per gallon (mpg) compared to the average sport utility vehicle's 10 to 15 mpg. "There should be as many incentives as possible to scrap older cars and move to hybrids," he added.

He added that rather than concentrate on fuel cells and other new technologies that would not be available for some time into the future, the urgency of the war on terror required solutions with existing technologies that can be adopted now.

"We have to focus on what we have now, what technology we have now, what can be incentivized now, what's in dealer showrooms now," he said.

One such idea was the use of biomass or waste with genetically modified biocatalysts to produce ethanol. Relying on biomass rather than corn to produce ethanol would mean that cars - without much adaptation - could be as much as 85 percent fueled by ethanol.

Woolsey also said the U.S. must take urgent steps to increase the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to at least one billion barrels, and encourage U.S. allies to stockpile oil. He also called on the Bush Administration to take steps to double Russian oil producing capacity from its current 6.9 million barrels a day.

Full video coverage of Woolsey's talk is available at: http://www.rff.org

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Terrorist Threat Highlights Nuclear Insecurity

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - The heightened threat level in the U.S. is prompting new calls for increased security at nuclear power plants.

After Attorney General John Ashcroft raised the national threat condition to the Orange, or High, level on Tuesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) advised nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities to implement heightened security measures, based on pre-established procedures. The NRC informed its licensees that while there is no specific credible threat against any of them, there has been credible intelligence involving U.S. interests and facilities abroad, particularly in Asia.

Critics of the nation's nuclear power program say the extra measures are still not enough to safeguard the U.S. from a terrorist attack on a nuclear facility. The Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) is calling on the NRC to take steps to eliminate security vulnerabilities that still persist at U.S. nuclear power plants one year after the September 11 attacks.

"The NRC took its time in imposing new security requirements for nuclear power plants after September 11, and has not even begun to verify that these measures are in place," said Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI president. "Now that the U.S. threat level has increased, the NRC must immediately bolster plant security or risk being caught flat footed by a surprise terrorist attack."

NCI also argued that until these measures are implemented and demonstrated through testing to be adequate to protect against offensives on the scale of last September's attacks, the National Guard should be deployed nationwide at all nuclear plants to supplement private guard forces. The group urged that serious consideration should be given to the deployment of surface to air missiles or other means to protect against aircraft attack at nuclear plants.

"The NRC cannot count on the prompt response of state and local police to save the day if a nuclear plant is attacked," said Dr. Lyman. "Nuclear plant defenses should be capable of deterring realistic threats at all times."

On Tuesday, activists from the environmental group Greenpeace staged a protest against the expansion of nuclear power at a gathering of industry officials in Washington DC being referred to as the Nuclear Renaissance Conference. Greenpeace members delivered their "No New Nukes" message to conference attendees in the form of an ice sculpture depicting a melting nuclear reactor.

"Greenpeace is putting plans for any 'nuclear renaissance' on ice," said Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace. "Despite benefiting from millions of dollars of government subsidies, nuclear power plants are still too expensive to build, too dangerous to operate and too vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks."

Three nuclear corporations - Exelon, Entergy and Dominion Energy - have indicated that they will apply for permits to build new nuclear units at three existing nuclear plant sites. Dominion Energy will seek an early site permit for the North Anna site in Virginia, Entergy at the Grand Gulf site in Mississippi, and Exelon at the Clinton site in Illinois.

While these nuclear corporations plan to submit their applications in the fall of 2003 and expect the NRC to approve the permits by 2005, none of them have selected a reactor design.

"These nuclear corporations cannot choose a new reactor design because none of the new designs are economically viable," Riccio contended. "As a result, the nuclear industry hasn't ordered and subsequently completed a new nuclear reactor in nearly 30 years."

In February 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) put forth a plan that would result in new nuclear reactors by 2010. In addition, the nuclear industry has their own plan to construct 50 new nuclear reactors by 2020, and the Bush administration intends on spending $38.5 million in 2003 to subsidize the siting of new plants in the United States.

"There are much safer and less expensive ways to produce electricity without threatening our families and communities the way nuclear energy does," said Riccio. "After all, terrorists aren't targeting windmills and solar panels as potential attack sites."

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Satellite Data Could Help Detect Terrorists

ATHENS, Ohio, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - Satellites scanning the Earth's landscape can be used to help detect terrorist threats, says a researcher from the Ohio University.

With the aid of a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Ohio University geographer James Lein will study the use of satellite data to identify geographic areas that could be at risk of terrorist threats.

The project, aimed at boosting the nation's homeland security, will use information collected from the Landsat and Aster satellites to inventory chemical and power plants, utility lines, key public buildings and geographic characteristics of a region, including population density. Changes in the data, updated every 24 hours, could identify problems and emergencies.

"Satellite data has the advantage of being able to see a lot of different things in a lot of different ways," said Lein. "The project is trying to support the idea of homeland security by giving information to communities that haven't thought about what's in their backyards."

The satellites, supported by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, can use digital cameras to zoom in on geographic areas as small as a half meter in size to capture finely detailed images of the landscape, Lein said.

For several years, researchers have used satellites to track changes in the Earth's landscape to monitor such issues as the loss of farm land to residential development, deforestation and water pollution. For the purposes of homeland security, government officials can compare images from the same location over time to detect unusual activity, such as at the site of a remote pipeline.

"It could signal to policy makers where they might be vulnerable and where they should take appropriate actions," Lein explained.

The satellites collect information in a process known as remote sensing, or measuring energy wavelengths such as sunlight reflected off the surface of the Earth. Different land surfaces, such as forests, streams, agricultural fields, reflect different energy patterns. The satellites then transmit the information to a ground station where the data are processed into an image.

The technology also could have potential for the detection of airborne agents, Lein noted. Sensitive satellites can spot the wavelength signatures of gases in the atmosphere, as they can record between 100 to 250 different types of energy wavelengths, compared with other satellites, which pick up between only three and 12 types.

The number of chemical industries and power plants located on the Ohio River makes southeastern Ohio a good test site for the project, Lein said, and preliminary work suggests that the technology could be applied to other areas of the country as well. Lein intends to make the satellite data available to state and local government officials as a resource for security planning and response programs.

Lein has used satellite technology and remote sensing for risk assessment of natural hazards, including identifying homes in the flood plain that could be damaged by floods. The homeland security project, an idea spawned from a discussion with an Ohio policy maker, is a natural outgrowth of the prior work, he said.

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Emergency Personnel Need Better Training

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - A new report by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) finds that emergency personnel need more training to deal with terrorist attacks.

One year after the attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. emergency response personnel still lack training to deal with a weapons of mass destruction attack, according to the FAS study. The study concludes that only a coordinated interagency approach making skillful use of new information technology can ensure that effective, up to date training is available to the millions of personnel who need it in a timely way.

"The nation's firefighters, nurses, physicians and other first responders indicate that they are not prepared for a weapons of mass destruction attack," said Henry Kelly, FAS president and coauthor of the study. "Absent better coordination and approaches to delivery of training for these personnel, much of the current investment in dealing with an attack will be wasted and decades could pass before the need is met."

"We must recognize that the training demands are dramatically larger and more complex than anything the nation has faced before," Kelly added. "We need an approach commensurate with the problem."

The study finds that federal planners are not taking advantage of new information technologies, many of them developed and deployed by the Department of Defense (DOD), to train the more than five million emergency responders in the U.S. This is partly because federal expertise and funding is divided between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and DOD.

"The Governmental Affairs Committee bill to establish a new Department of Homeland Security recognizes the need to improve first responder training," said Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat. "These men and women are our first line of defense and we must be certain they are equipped to respond to any weapon of mass destruction. The new Directorate for Emergency Response within the new department would work to train these brave men and women, and technology would play an important role in that training. Computer simulations can help them imagine the unimaginable and prepare for any possible attack."

The study notes that last year's attacks using anthrax contaminated mail demonstrated that the nation needed to be better prepared to respond to terrorist attacks involving biological agents. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, signed by President George W. Bush on June 12, 2002, was designed to address this need.

The act includes a variety of measures aimed to better prepare the nation to prevent, identify and respond to biological attack. Included is the authorization of more than $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2003 in grants to states, local governments and other public and private health care facilities and other entities to improve planning and preparedness activities, enhance laboratory capacity, educate and train health care personnel, and to develop new drugs, therapies and vaccines.

The full report is available at: http://www.fas.org/terrorism/wmd/docs/wmd_resp.pdf

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Aerogels Could Make Buildings Stronger

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - New materials called aerogels could help produce stronger buildings, a topic that gained urgency after the September 11 terrorist attacks toppled the World Trade Center towers.

Aerogels are an amalgam of porous glass and plastic that is as light as air, but are also among the world's strongest materials. These new materials show promise as lightweight body armor for soldiers, shielding for armored vehicles, and stronger building materials, researchers say.

The materials could also be used for better window insulation, longer lasting tires, and lighter, safer aircraft and space vehicles.

A study describing these materials is scheduled to appear in the September 12 print issue of "Nano Letters," a peer reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society.

"We took the lightest material available and made it 100 times stronger, giving us the strongest, lightest material known to man," said Dr. Nicholas Leventis, a chemist with the University of Missouri-Rolla and a chief author of the paper. "Our material appears promising for practically any application that requires lightweight, strong materials."

Aerogels were first developed in the 1930s, but remained a curiosity until the 1960s, when scientists began to consider them as a medium for storing liquid rocket fuel. The first aerogels were made of silica and had a chemical composition identical to glass.

Until now, aerogels have been very brittle and have absorbed moisture easily, which limited their practical applications.

In an effort to improve upon the strength of these materials, Leventis and his associates decided to weave together strings of tiny particles of silica, or glass, with polyurethane, a plastic. The resulting material, however, remained too brittle.

The researchers then decided to chemically tie together the strings of the nano-sized glass particles with polyisocyanate, one of the two components of polyurethane. Like earlier aerogels, the resulting materials were almost as light as air.

But the new chemical approach resulted in aerogels that were 100 times more resistant to breakage, and almost insensitive to moisture compared with the original version of aerogels made of plain silica.

Aerogels are also known for their high resistance to heat transfer, making them promising as insulating materials. In the near future, the new aerogel nanocomposites will probably appear in insulated windows, refrigerators and thermoses, Leventis predicts.

Other possibilities include more impact resistant automobile bumpers and stronger, lighter armored vests. The new material can also store liquid fuel, making it useful for safer, more impact resistant fuel tanks for aircraft and fuel transport vehicles. It can also be used for building lighter, more efficient frames for airplanes and spacecraft, according to the researchers.

A few companies are developing aerogels commercially. Despite their fragility, some plain silica aerogels are already in use on spacecraft to collect cosmic dust for analysis. They are also part of the instrumentation that measures radiation produced within nuclear reactors.

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Donations Help Fund Rescue Dog Teams

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - Funds donated after the September 11 terrorist attacks are helping the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sponsor canine search and rescue teams.

Through the generous contribution of artist Ron Burns, the HSUS Disaster Dog Program now has additional money to put toward sponsoring new teams. Burns created a poster of Sirius, the bomb detection dog killed in the World Trade Center collapse, and is donating all proceeds from its sale to programs for training dogs for disaster response, including The HSUS Disaster Dog program.

On the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, many are recalling the heroic efforts of police officers, firefighters, and other rescue personnel. Among that list of heroes are also the dogs and their handlers who worked rescue and recovery efforts round the clock at Ground Zero and the Pentagon.

But with new awareness of the important role these trained canine/human teams play has also come the recognition that there are not enough of them ready to respond when disaster strikes.

To address this problem, The HSUS, the only organization with an agreement to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide disaster services and information to help people with pets, horses and livestock, has developed the HSUS Disaster Dog Program. This program provides direct financial support to FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams to help cover the costs of training and travel.

"The FEMA teams are the best trained search and rescue teams in the country," noted Anne Culver, director of disaster services for The HSUS. "Amazingly, almost every one of these canine handlers is a volunteer. Our program focuses on increasing the number of teams nationwide by relieving some of the financial burden the volunteer handlers must carry."

FEMA requires extensive training and certification to serve as part of its National Urban Search and Rescue Response System. The agency pays volunteers' expenses when they are deployed, but many expenses, such as training, field exercises, and travel, are often not covered.

The HSUS Disaster Dog Program provides up to $3,000 per year to handler/dog teams to help defray these costs. In addition, the program has provided monetary support to FEMA designated volunteer evaluators who travel across the country certifying FEMA teams.

"One of the most important parts of the Disaster Dog Program is our requirement that handlers use only humane training methods," said Culver. "In order to qualify, a handler must use only positive reinforcement training with his or her canine partner."

"The first two teams who joined our program, Bob Sessions and his dog Sky and Sonja Heritage and her dog Drako, both of which worked at the Pentagon after September 11, demonstrate that positive reinforcement training results in the best trained, most effective search and rescue teams," Culver added.

The Disaster Dog Program will have a corps of 10 teams by mid October. These 10 handlers will serve as mentors to less experienced handlers, promoting the use of humane training methods. As the program grows, The HSUS expects to have sponsored teams in every part of the country.

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Tiny Robots Could Aid Rescuers

BLACKSBURG, Virginia, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - A $300,000 grant will help a Virginia Tech researcher develop tiny reconnaissance robots that can search disaster sites.

Larger versions of such robots were used to help search the rubble of the World Trade Center towers for survivors and human remains after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"Robin Murphy, a University of South Florida professor, used reconnaissance robots in confined, hazardous locations at the World Trade Center site after September 11 to transmit data to rescue workers," noted Amy Bell, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $300,000 Information Technology Research (ITR) grant to Bell for development of smaller robots.

Size is a problem for mobile agents on reconnaissance missions because the transmission of images requires a hefty power source.

"Small robots that can make their way into cramped spaces have to be tethered to power sources in order to receive and send data transmissions, and the tethers limit their range," said Bell. "Larger robots can carry their own battery packs, but they can't maneuver in small spaces."

An expert in signal processing, Bell began working on ways to compress images when she received an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program grant in 1999.

"For example, downloading an Internet site that contains several photographs can take a good deal of time," Bell explained. "But suppose, instead of sending the graphics in their original form - let's say 300 megabytes that might take ten minutes to download - we could compress those images into 10 megabytes that would download in only one-third of a minute, and the compressed images would look the same as the originals."

Bell's goal for the NSF ITR project is to compress images in ways that will reduce the power required for small, mobile agents to transmit images in wireless networks. She is working on the project with Joan Carletta, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Akron, Ohio whose field is computer hardware.

"We've already developed a novel idea that represents a first step toward implementing our goal," Bell said. "It's a method of transforming images in hardware that loses very little of the data's original quality."

Bell will develop algorithms, or mathematical procedures, for perfecting the data image compression and Carletta will devise a method for making those algorithms work in hardware.

If the researchers succeed, data transmission power requirements could be reduced so that small robots outfitted with small batteries would be able to move where no human can, or should, go.

The success of Bell's and Carletta's NSF project could result in technology advances beyond the use of diminutive robots for search and rescue. For example, soldiers who need to transmit and receive data during field operations could be relieved of the burden of heavy battery packs, Bell said.

Another potential use of the technology would be equipping small reconnaissance aircraft with image transmission devices.

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Salvaged Log Becomes 9/11 Totem Pole

NEW YORK, New York, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - The Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo has dedicated a special 23 foot high "Healing Totem" to commemorate the tragedy of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

On September 5, the Bronx Zoo hosted the dedication of the totem pole, created by disadvantaged youth from Monterey, California, and donated to New York City.

The Totem was made from an ancient cedar log from Port Chicago, California, site of a primary naval weapons depot during World War II. The depot used 1,100 year old Alaskan yellow cedar trees to construct its piers and dock.

In July of 1944, a massive explosion rocked Port Chicago, killing 320 naval personnel and damaging 14 California counties. This incident was the largest homeland disaster of either of the two world wars.

Ten of the ancient Alaskan logs survived the blast and were salvaged 50 years later from the Suisun Bay, northeast of San Francisco. Spiritual and environmental groups recovered and purchased these logs to create healing totems to be gifted throughout the world.

The One Voice Arts and Leadership Program, a Monterey County, California organization that works with disadvantaged youth, received a 23 foot, 6,000 pound log and agreed to involve these young people in the ancient art of totem carving. They promised that the totem would be given to a community in need of healing and recovery, as a gift of peace and hope to all of those who have suffered from the events of September 11th.

The Wildlife Conservation Society teamed up with One Voice and agreed to accept the totem sculpture at its flagship Bronx Zoo on behalf of the people of New York City.



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