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Avoiding Armageddon
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Episode 1 - "Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues"
Biological and chemical weapons represent one of the 21st century's most urgent challenges. They could be the weapons of choice for terrorists and rogue regimes - silent killers with the capacity to claim more lives over greater distances than a nuclear bomb. But unlike a nuclear bomb, these weapons are relatively easy to make - and to use - by anyone with access to a small lab and who is willing to do the unthinkable.

Sadly, the names of these weapons are now part of our lexicon: sarin, anthrax, plague, smallpox, VX gas. The world is in a desperate race to detect, control and protect everyone from their deadly terror.

"Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues" is the opening program of the series "Avoiding Armageddon." It takes a dramatic and thoughtful look at where these devastating weapons came from, who has them, who might use them and what the world must do to prevent their use.

This episode examines the deadly sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in which 12 people died and thousands became sick. Viewers hear from the widow of one victim whose life was turned upside down in an instant.

"Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues" also looks at the anthrax attacks in the United States in October 2001, when five people died and the U.S. mail was literally infected. The episode chronicles the story of Leroy Richmond, the veteran postal worker who survived what is traditionally fatal exposure to inhalation anthrax. His experience is a reminder that any of us - in our offices, homes or at our mailboxes - is vulnerable.

"Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues" shows how biological and chemical weapons have been used throughout history — often horrifically — despite attempts to ban them. The program explores the potential reappearance of once-defeated diseases such as smallpox, which now may be genetically engineered to painfully kill or maim masses of humanity.

The program also looks through the prism of our new world: where terrorists respect neither boundaries nor treaties, where global commerce and travel are commonplace and where technology empowers good and evil alike.

"Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues" illustrates the threat and horror behind these deadly weapons but it also examines plans, opportunities and breakthroughs to reduce those threats. How can technology protect us? Can enhanced detection systems identify diseases quickly enough? Can pathogen sequencing and vaccine development protect us from weaponized diseases?

"Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues" shows that the race to answer those questions is one that humanity cannot afford to lose.

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