• Gene drivesGene-drive modified organisms not yet ready to be released into environment: Scientists

    The emerging science of gene drives has the potential to address environmental and public health challenges, but gene-drive modified organisms are not ready to be released into the environment and require more research in laboratories and highly controlled field trials, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences.

  • Gene drivesThree ways synthetic biology could annihilate Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases

    By Andrew Maynard

    There are tried and tested approaches in the arsenal of weapons against the mosquito-borne disease, but to combat Zika and other mosquito-borne disease, more is needed. Gene drives, synthetic biology-based genetic engineering techniques, offer one solution by reengineering mosquitoes or obliterating them altogether. Yet we still have only the vaguest ideas of how the systems we’re hacking by using gene drives actually work. It’s as if we’ve been given free rein to play with life’s operating system code, but unlike computers, we don’t have the luxury of rebooting when things go wrong. As enthusiasm grows over the use of synthetic biology to combat diseases like Zika, greater efforts are needed to understand what could go wrong, who and what might potentially be affected, and how errors will be corrected.

  • Policy makingDo think-tanks matter? Expert says “think again”

    A recently published study found that public sector workers judged studies and reports generated by scholars affiliated with universities to be more credible than reports or studies purported to be from a think-tank or advocacy group.

  • TerrorismThere is no manual on how to defeat ISIS – “we’re writing it”: John Kerry

    Speaking Thursday at the opening of a 3-day meeting in Washington, D.C. of thirty countries currently engaged in fighting ISIS, Secretary of States Joh Kerry said, “We are engaged in an historic effort. Nothing like this coalition has ever before been assembled. And we’re not following a manual on antiterrorist coalition-building, we’re writing it.”

  • TerrorismBrazil's police arrest 10 ISIS sympathizers suspected of Olympics terror plot

    With two weeks to go to the opening of the Olympic Games in Brazil, the Brazilian police have arrested ten alleged ISIS sympathizers in the states of São Paulo and Parana on suspicion of planning acts of terrorism during the games. Two other suspects are still at large. Brazil’s intelligence agency ABIN has worked with foreign intelligence services to provide the information that led to the arrests.

  • TerrorismNice terrorist had accomplices, was planning the attack for a year

    Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the truck driver who killed eighty-five people in Nice on Bastille Day, had accomplices – and he had been planning his attack for months, the prosecutor leading the investigation said. Prosecutor Francois Molins said five suspects were facing terrorism charges for their alleged roles in helping the driver.

  • ForensicsSeparating the DNA of identical twins

    Since its first use in the 1980s — a breakthrough dramatized in recent ITV series “Code of a Killer” — DNA profiling has been a vital tool for forensic investigators. Now researchers at the University of Huddersfield have solved one of its few limitations by successfully testing a technique for distinguishing between the DNA — or genetic fingerprint — of identical twins.

  • Nuclear powerAs nuclear power plants close, states need to bet big on energy storage

    By Eric Daniel Fournier and Alex Ricklefs

    Nuclear power plants saw their heyday in the early 1970s and were praised for their ability to produce large amounts of electricity at a constant rate without the use of fossil fuels. We are now observing a trend whereby long-running nuclear power plants are shutting down, and of utilities moving toward renewable electricity generation, such as solar and wind. Can utilities supply electricity around the clock using these alternative generation sources? And crucially, can energy storage technologies provide the power on demand that traditional generators have done? It is clear that energy storage is the major limitation to achieving a carbon-free electricity grid. Careful planning is needed to ensure that energy storage systems are installed to take over the baseline load duties currently held by natural gas and nuclear power, as renewables and energy efficiency may not be able to carry the burden.

  • Nuclear powerFukushima and the oceans: What do we know, five years on?

    A major international review of the state of the oceans five years after the Fukushima disaster shows that radiation levels are decreasing rapidly except in the harbor area close to the nuclear plant itself where ongoing releases remain a concern. At the same time, the review’s lead author expresses concern at the lack of ongoing support to continue the radiation assessment, which he says is vital to understand how the risks are changing.

  • WindstormsNIST leads federal effort to save lives, property from windstorms

    Congress recently designated NIST to be the lead agency for the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP). In one of its first actions as lead agency, NIST has announced in the Federal Register that it is establishing a panel of external experts to “provide advice on windstorm impact reduction and represent related scientific, architectural and engineering disciplines.”

  • EducationPenn State adds new homeland security offerings

    Penn State is expanding its portfolio in homeland security with a new graduate-level certificate that focuses on how to ensure that hospitals and medical care facilities stay functional during emergencies and disasters. In the coursework for the 15-credit certificate, students will learn the ways to prepare hospitals for and respond to emergencies, such as mass-casualty events, floods, earthquakes, disease outbreaks, or terrorist attacks.

  • STEM educationEnrollment in U.S. science and engineering graduate school increases

    After remaining essentially flat for the past two years, the number of full-time graduate students enrolled in science and engineering (S&E) programs rose by 2.4 percent in 2013, to nearly 425,000 students. The increase was largely due to a 7.9 percent rise in full-time enrollment of foreign graduate students on temporary visas. Foreign enrollment hit an all-time high of 168,297 students in 2013, or 39.6 percent of the full-time S&E graduate student population—up from 35.9 percent in 2008.

  • Domestic terrorismBaton Rouge gunman was a member of black “sovereign citizen” group

    Gavin Long, the 29-year old former Marine who on Saturday killed three Baton Rouge police officers, was a member of a black antigovernment sovereign citizen group whose members believe they are indigenous to the United States and beyond the reach of the federal government. Members of the Washitaw Nation believe that they are descendants of black people who occupied the North American continent tens of thousands of years before white Europeans arrived, and, therefore, they fall outside federal authority.

  • TerrorismIndonesian security forces kill country's most wanted Islamist militant

    Abu Wardah Santoso, Indonesia’s most wanted Islamist militant, was killed in a shootout with security forces. Santoso, who was the leader of the East Indonesia Mujahideen militant group which, in 2014, claimed allegiance to ISIS, had eluded capture for more than five years.

  • TerrorismUpdated 2015 Global Terrorism Database release

    The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has released an update to its Global Terrorism Database (GTD), an open-source database including information on terrorist attacks that took place around the world between 1970 and 2015. Among the findings: The total number of terrorist attacks and total deaths due to terrorist attacks worldwide decreased by 12 percent in 2015, compared to 2014. This was largely due to fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria. This represents the first decline in total terrorist attacks and deaths worldwide since 2009.

  • PrivacyDHS S&T awards $3.66 million for privacy-enhancing technology R&D

    DHS S&T has announced the award of three contracts totaling $3.66 million to fund the research and development of privacy-enhancing technologies that better defend personally identifying information and protect privacy in cyber space.

  • PrivacyProtecting against “browser fingerprint”

    Imagine that every time a person goes out in public, they leave behind a track for all to see, so that their behavior can be easily analyzed, revealing their identity. This is the case with people’s online browser “fingerprints,” which are left behind at each location they visit on their internet browser. Almost like a regular fingerprint, a person’s browser fingerprint — or “browserprint” — is often unique to the individual. Such a fingerprint can be monitored, tracked, and identified by companies and hackers.

  • DecontaminationUsing gels for biological decontamination

    Removing chemical, biological, radiological, and toxic contaminants from a range of surface types could be as easy as peeling off a sticker thanks to research conducted by scientists at the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) and industry partner CBI Polymer.The researchers explored how a HydroGel can be modified to decontaminate surfaces contaminated with biological agents.

  • Water securityManaging the endangered Rio Grande River across the U.S.-Mexico border

    The Rio Grande (called Rio Bravo in Mexico) is the lifeline to an expansive desert in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. From Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, over 3,000 km, people depend on the river to quench their thirst and irrigate their crops. Yet as the river flows from the United States, it brings with it conflicts and challenges. The water level in the river is declining as use exceeds supply. Water demand is rising as the population in the region grows, and corresponding economic growth drives continued development. Moreover, climate change is expected to lower water levels even further, exacerbating the problems.

  • Emerging threatsBreaking records: The first six months of 2016 the warmest half-year on record

    Two key climate change indicators — global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent — have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016. While these two key climate indicators have broken records in 2016, NASA scientists said it is more significant that global temperature and Arctic sea ice are continuing their decades-long trends of change. Both trends are ultimately driven by rising concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

  • Iran’s nukesSecret side deal cuts Iran’s breakout time in half in little more than a decade

    Key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will ease in slightly more than a decade, cutting in half the time Iran would need to build a nuclear weapons. The AP had obtained a document from a source inside the IAEA — a document which was the only secret portion to last year’s agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers. The document said that after a period of between eleven to thirteen years, Iran could replace its 5,060 older, and inefficient, centrifuges with up to 3,500 advanced centrifuges.

  • Public safetyU.K. reviews security measures for large outdoor events

    Amber Rudd, the new British home secretary, told the House of Commons that she has ordered a full review of the security measures taken to protect large outdoor events such as festivals and other public gatherings. The review comes in the wake of the attack in Nice on revelers celebrating Bastille Day. Rudd said that additional security measures will be put in place, including what is known as the “national barrier asset” when police assess that there is a risk of vehicle attacks.