"Each year, millions of cargo containers from around the world are shipped to U.S. ports, holding in their metal 'bellies' a variety of essential goods such as food and textiles. While this method of importing freight is necessary for the nation's livelihood, monitoring the contents in such a vast volume of containers poses a challenge to homeland security experts. The events of September 11, 2001, brought transportation security issues into the limelight, including the need to ensure that cargo containers coming into U.S. ports are not carrying clandestine fissile materials. One of the difficulties scientists face in developing detection technologies for homeland security is how to accurately and efficiently identify hidden nuclear materials without significantly slowing commerce or, worse, bringing it to a halt. With funding from a grant through the University of California (UC) Office of the President, Livermore physicist Marie-Anne Descalle and UC Berkeley collaborators are studying the effectiveness of a radiographic imaging technique for use as a primary screening tool to rapidly scan cargo shipments."
"Compared with plague and anthrax, tularemia is less well known to the general public, but recent outbreaks and its potential as a bioterrorism agent have brought the disease into the limelight. Sometimes called rabbit fever, tularemia primarily infects small- to medium-size mammals such as hares, prairie dogs, and rodents. However, the disease can be spread to humans through contact with infected animals, bites from ticks and deerflies, or inhalation of the airborne bacteria. Early symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu but can develop into serious, acute conditions of the glands, intestines, and respiratory system, including life-threatening pneumonia. To make matters worse, although antibiotics can be used to effectively treat the disease, the amount of time available for therapeutic intervention can be fairly short, typically three to five days if bacteria are inhaled. Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Four subspecies of F. tularensis are currently recognized, and several strains within these subspecies are highly virulent, with as few as ten organisms causing infection. Tularemia's virulence and ability to be aerosolized raise concerns that the bacterium could be used as a bioterrorism agent. To combat this potential threat, scientists have ramped up efforts to develop a licensed vaccine for the disease, which would be especially important for military personnel. However, before a vaccine can be produced, scientists must first understand how the bacterium infects cells and what causes it to be so virulent."