Today's news

  • EbolaU.S. hospitals unprepared to dispose of Ebola-related waste

    A board of biological safety experts has warned that many U.S. hospitals may be unprepared to dispose of Ebola-related waste safely, should the disease arrive in any great number within the mainland. Many waste management companies are refusing to perform any service where waste items – such as soiled sheets and medical protective gear involved with treating the disease – would have to be handled. They cite federal guidelines which state that such items would require special training and packaging by people with hazardous materials training.

  • Chemical plantsA third of American schoolchildren face risk of chemical catastrophe

    Chemical factories, refineries, bleach manufacturing, water and waste water treatment, and other facilities that produce, use, or store significant quantities of certain chemicals identified as hazardous to human health or the environment must report to the Risk Management Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A new interactive map and study find that one in three American schoolchildren attends school within the danger zone of a hazardous chemical facility. They found 19.6 million children in public and private schools in forty-eight states are within the vulnerability zone of at least one chemical facility, according to data the facilities provide to the EPA.

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  • GridResilient electric grid feasibility study launched in Chicago

    Currently, many urban-area electrical substations are not connected to each other because of the amount of copper cables that would be required to move massive amounts of power as well as the risk of damaging equipment. With the existing infrastructure, if one substation loses power, all electricity in that area is lost until the substation comes back up. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has partnered with Massachusetts-based Company, AMSC, to develop a new superconductor cable — part of a Resilient Electric Grid (REG) program — that may enable urban utilities to “keep the lights on” during severe events.

  • ImmigrationIn U.S. criminal courts, non-citizens face harsher sentencing than citizens

    Non-Americans in the U.S. federal court system are more likely to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms compared to U.S. citizens, according to a new study. The researchers analyzed U.S. federal district court data from 1992 to 2008 for this study. In 2008, for example, 96 percent of convicted non-citizens received a prison sentence, compared to 85 percent of U.S. citizens. The researchers said that the issue of punishment disparities between citizens and non-citizens is a growing concern as the number of non-citizens in the United States — estimated at more than twenty-two million — continues to grow.

  • DetectionSensor network will track down illegal bomb-making

    Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids, and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Security forces do not always succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down illegal workshops in time. Bomb manufacturing, however, leaves its traces. A network of different sensors will detect illicit production of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Traces on doorknobs, in sewage, or in the air will be detected by the sensors and the data will be fused in a command center.

  • Law enforcementLaw enforcement agencies use technology to compensate for shrinking budgets

    With funding shrinking in many sectors of law enforcement, agencies are searching for new ways to operate affordably while maintaining quality standards.Police departments’ budgets quadrupled between 1982 and 2006. With federal budgets shrining, there are simply too many challenges which would not allow for police budgeting-as-usual.

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  • DroughtCalifornia agriculture faces greatest water loss ever seen

    California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and nearly a quarter of the nation’s milk and cream. Across the nation, consumers regularly buy several crops grown almost entirely in California, including tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, grapes, olives, and figs. Researchers show that California agriculture is weathering its worst drought in decades due to groundwater reserves, but the nation’s produce basket may come up dry in the future if it continues to treat those reserves like an unlimited savings account.

  • DroughtCalifornia crippling drought linked to climate change: Scientists

    The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California’s crippling drought are far more likely to occur under today’s global warming conditions than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases. Researchers used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

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  • EbolaCDC: First Ebola case diagnosed outside Africa; patient being treated in Dallas, Texas

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday evening announced the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa during the current outbreak, which has so far killed more than 3,000 people this year. The CDC said the patient left Liberia on 19 September, but did not develop symptoms until 24 September, when he was already in Dallas. He was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas on Sunday, 27 September. The possibility of treating the patient with experimental therapies was being discussed with the patient’s family. If the Texas patient receives the experimental treatment for Ebola, he will be the fifth to do so in the United States (a sixth American – a carrier of dual American-Liberian citizenship who worked for Liberia’s Ministry of the Treasury – contracted the disease in Monrovia in July and dies a few days later in a Lagos, Nigeria hospital). The FDA has issued warning letters to three privately held companies marketing what they claim are treatments to prevent or treat Ebola.

  • EbolaContrary to scientific evidence, the media continue to fan fears of airborne Ebola infection

    Despite solid evidence presented by scientists to quell rumors that the deadly Ebola virus could be passed through the air, many American media outlets continue to raise alarm and fuel debates with flimsy sources.These outlets publish articles which revive an earlier scientific debate over whether the Ebola virus can be transmitted through the air — but scientists say this debate has been decided, and that the Ebola virus cannot be transmitted through the air.

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  • SyriaAssad retains secret caches of chemical weapons: Israeli intelligence

    Despite committing to dismantle and give up its chemical weapons – Syria was in possession of the world’s largest chemical weapons stock — President Bashar al-Assad’s regime still maintains a “residual” chemical weapons capacity, consisting of a few tons of the proscribed materials. Israel’s intelligence community has concluded that the Assad regime has decided to keep this reduced, but still formidable, chemical weapons capability, and has successfully concealed it from the inspectors of the UN chemical weapons watchdog who, a few weeks ago, have declared the chemical disarmament of Syria to be officially complete. Israeli defense officials believe that these sarin gas weapons would likely be deployed if the Assad regime faced an imminent threat to its survival. The Syrian regime is continuing to use chemical weapons which were not covered by the U.S.-Russian chemical weapons disarmament agreement, especially chlorine gas.

  • IslamCultural Muslims, like cultural Christians, are a silent majority

    By Milad Milani

    Not all Muslims are religious. An increasingly recognized body of non-practicing Muslims living in the West are identified (or openly self-identify) as cultural. The “cultural Muslim” refers to members of the Muslim community who are non-practicing but retain an attachment to elements of Islamic culture. The history of the Muslim world entails the story of numerous civilizations spanning from Spain in the West to Pakistan in the East. And not much has changed today. The vast cultural diversity means distinctness and variety in practice and customs. Communities of faithful across the globe express a multiplicity of interpretations across the globe. More intriguingly, the category of the “cultural Muslim” is not only a testament to the cultural diversity associated with the faith, but further defined by a process of disenchantment with its religious institution. The cultural Muslim appears to be the case of an unaccounted majority.

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  • InfrastructureLos Angeles revises rule requiring flat rooftops for skyscrapers

    For more than forty years, the building code in Los Angeles required skyscrapers to have flat roofs in order to facilitate helicopter landing in cases of emergency. Now, however, with newer technological advances and techniques that enable Angelinos to be safe during an emergency, the flat-roof code is seen as outdated, and it was changed on Monday. Instead of helicopter pads, skyscraper designers will now focus on other safety features, including special elevators for fire fighters, special exit stairwells, advanced sprinkler systems, and video surveillance technologies.

  • Coastal infrastructureWarnings from a warming ocean

    Using geological data to verify their model results, scientists found that when the ocean around Antarctica became more stratified, or layered, warm water at depth melted the ice sheet faster than when the ocean was less stratified. A dramatic example of this process occurred around 14,000 years ago, and led to an abrupt rise in global sea level of nearly three meters over just a few centuries.

  • ISISCost of U.S. war on ISIS reaches $780 million

    The cost of the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) Islamist group has totaled at least $780 million, according to a new estimate, as U.S. warplanes and drones continued to strike Isis positions in Iraq and Syria on Monday and Tuesday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday that the U.S. military is spending up to $10 million a day and will likely request more money from Congress to fund the war. The attacks on ISIS began 8 August, and before they were expanded to include targets in Syria, the Pentagon estimated the daily war costs at $7.5 million.

  • Cybersecurity$3 million in grants for three pilot projects to improve online security, privacy

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) the other day announced nearly $3 million in grants that will support projects for online identity protection to improve privacy, security and convenience. The three recipients of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) grants will pilot solutions that make it easier to use mobile devices instead of passwords for online authentication, minimize loss from fraud and improve access to state services.

  • EarthquakesL.A. considering first responses to the inevitable Big One

    Often referred to as the “Big One,” the inevitable cataclysmic earthquake that will eventually strike at the San Andreas Fault throughout the city of Los Angeles is expected to be incredibly destructive. According to seismologists, it is no longer a question of “if,” but more just “when.” Preparedness experts identify several key parts of the greater Los Angeles infrastructure that will need to have firm response plans in place to deal with the fallout of a major disaster, specifically transportation and communication —– the two things needed to coordinate and react to everything else.

  • DisastersStorm-surge app improves public and administration responses to flooding

    An environmental group called Wetlands Watch in Virginia has integrated crowd-sourcing into the Sea Level Rise app, allowing users to issue and receive alerts in real-time regarding waterlogged streets and improve public safety.The newest evolution of the app is expected to be launched within the next few weeks and the information provided and distributed to users will also be tracked by scientists and emergency planners to better grasp the flood patterns in the region and how to prepare for them.

  • Coastal infrastructureRisks grow as Americans continue to build on eroding coast

    More than two million housing units have been built along the nation’s coast within the last twenty years, and as the American economy recovers after years of recession, development along the U.S. coastline is steadily increasing. Scientists warn, however, that building along coastlines could put life and property at risk due to erosion, rising sea levels, and storm damage.

  • RoboticsFlying robots will go where humans cannot

    There are many situations in which it is impossible, complicated, or too time-consuming for humans to enter and carry out operations. Think of contaminated areas following a nuclear accident, or the need to erect structures such as antennae on mountain tops. These are examples of where flying robots could be used.

  • ISISObama: U.S. intelligence underestimated ISIS strength, overestimated Iraqi military's resilience

    President Barack Obama on Sunday said that the U.S. intelligence community had underestimated Islamic State (ISIS) strength and level of activity inside Syria, which has become “ground zero” for jihadist terrorists worldwide, while overestimating the ability of the Iraqi army to fight such militant groups. Obama’s admission that ISIS succeeded in setting up its bases in Syria and Iraq without being noticed by U.S. intelligence may embolden Republican hawks such Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) who have been complaining for months that the administration was being too passive in its approach to the Syrian civil war.

  • ISISISIS, al-Nusra reconcile as Syria air strikes continue

    Under continuing strikes by U.S. and coalition air forces, ISIS moved toward a new alliance with Syria’s largest al-Qaeda-affiliated group. Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been at odds with ISIS for more than a year now, was also subjected to U.S. air strikes which killed scores of the group’s members. Many al-Nusra units in northern Syria now appear to have reconciled with ISIS, following months of bitter clashes between the two groups.