Today's news

  • ImmigrationU.K. needs more “constructive” thinking on migrant welfare benefits

    As the British political debate continues on whether the British government should try to impose a four-year ban on EU migrant citizens claiming in-work benefits, a new Oxford University study argues that rather than pursuing treaty change, more constructive thinking could ease the financial burden on British taxpayers. The study author says one solution could be to set up an EU fund for helping local authorities most affected by immigration. He also highlights the relatively lax access to NHS services that EU citizens enjoy in Britain compared with other EU member states.

  • Seismic early warningImproving West Coast earthquake early warning system

    UC Berkeley is among four universities to receive grants last week from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help bring the planned ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system toward a production stage. Among other tasks, the partners also will continue development of scientific algorithms rapidly to detect potentially damaging earthquakes, more thoroughly test the system, and improve its performance.

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  • WaterSmart hand pumps to bring a reliable water service to rural Africa

    Worldwide 780 million people live without basic and reliable water supplies, with parts of rural Africa facing particular challenges achieving water security. Groundwater from hand pumps is a primary water supply for many communities — but up to one third of these pumps are out of action at any one time and can take weeks to be repaired. Researchers have created a device that generates data on hand pump usage and transmits this information over the mobile phone network. The smart hand pump, being trialed in rural Kenya, alerts the maintenance team if the hand pump is not functioning.

  • STEM educationStudents race robot submarines in RoboSub competition

    High school and college engineering students from across the globe competed for bragging rights and cash prizes at the 18th International RoboSub Competition, which wrapped up 26 July. The mission theme for this year’s contest played on the theme of the “Back to the Future,” movie trilogy. The individual autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) had to navigate and complete an obstacle course — with tasks like “check the flux capacitor” and “travel through the time portal” — without human or computer interaction by team members.

  • African securityNigeria's army rescues 178 people captured and held captive by Boko Haram

    Nigeria’s army said on Sunday that it had rescued 178 people held by Islamist group Boko Haram in Borno state in Nigeria’s north-east. Under the sustained attacks of the armies of four of Nigeria’s neighbors — Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin — Boko Haram was pushed out of most of the vast swathes of Nigerian territory it had come to control at the start of the year. The Islamists, who a year ago appeared to be on the verge of establishing their own state-within-a-state in north-east Nigeria, have since dispersed, and have returned to their earlier guerrilla approach of hitting soft targets with bombs and raiding towns.

  • Climate & securityPentagon: Climate change aggravates U.S. security risks

    Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress last week. The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security, and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.

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  • TerrorismIsrael mulls designating Jewish extremists as “terrorists”

    The State of Israel has been struggling with profound questions about terrorism these past three days – Jewish terrorism, that is. On Friday, Jewish extremists went a step-further: they threw Molotov cocktails into the home of a family of four in the Palestinian village of Duma, killing a toddler and severely injuring the toddler’s sister and her father and mother. All three are in critical condition in an Israeli hospital. To make sure the family would be killed in the attack, the Jewish terrorists blocked the doors to the house from the outside, so the family would not be able to escape and instead burn alive inside. The right-wing coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu may be especially uncomfortable making this decision because it may alienate the many settlers who are not violent – and who support the government — but who would not like to see fellow settlers designated as terrorists. The extremists, however, may be forcing the Israeli government’s hand.

  • ImmigrationDHS asks judge to cancel contempt hearing over immigration executive order

    When President Barack Obama last year issued his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, applicants covered by the order received a three-year work permit, or EADs (Employment Authorization Documents). On 16 February 2015, Brownsville, Texas-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen temporarily blocked Obama’s immigration action. After the temporary injunction was in place, the federal government mistakenly issued the approximately 2,500 three-year permits. On Friday, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson asked Judge Hanen not to find him and other Obama administration officials in contempt, telling the judge that DHS had recovered all but 22 of the 2,500 offending permits. Johnson also advised the judge that DHS had corrected federal computer databases to invalidate those permits not turned over by their owners.

  • Seismic early warning$4 million awarded to support earthquake early warning system in Pacific Northwest

    The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) last week has awarded approximately $4 million to four universities — California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington, and University of Oregon — to support transitioning the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning (EEW) system toward a production stage. A functioning early warning system can give people a precious few seconds to stop what they are doing and take precautions before the severe shaking waves from an earthquake arrive.

  • DronesDHS warns local law enforcement to watch for drones used by terrorists, criminals

    DHS has circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. The bulletin went out Friday and warned state and municipal law enforcement agencies that terrorist and criminals may begin to use drones to advance their goals. “Emerging adversary use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems [UAS] present detection and disruption challenges,” the intelligence bulletin warns.

  • CybersecurityN.Y. village pays ransom to regain access to hacker-encrypted files

    The village Ilion in central New York paid ransom twice last year — $300 and $500 — to have access to its computers two official-looking e-mails planted malware throughout the village’s computer system. The New York State comptroller’s office has audited 100 municipal computer systems the past three years, and said the experience of Ilion should serve as a warning to others municipalities of the growing cyberthreat – especially attempts by hackers to infiltrate computer systems to make them inaccessible unless ransom is paid.

  • CybersecurityFDA to hospitals: Infusion system vulnerable to hacks, should not be used

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in which it “strongly encourages” hospitals to stop using Hospira’s Symbiq Infusion System, because the device is vulnerable to attacks by hackers who could remotely control dosages delivered via the computerized pumps. The FDS said that tests have shown that an unauthorized third party – hackers – could access the Symbiq infusion system by breaching hospital networks.

  • ResilienceConfronting weather extremes by making infrastructure more resilient

    South Florida’s predisposition to weather extremes renders the region’s infrastructure acutely vulnerable. But weather extremes are not exclusive to South Florida. The Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), a newly formed team of researchers, is addressing these challenges on an international scale.

  • TerrorismU.S. judge: Guantánamo detention is legal even if U.S. winds down Afghanistan involvement

    U.S. district judge Royce Lamberth on Thursday rejected a Guantánamo Bay detainee’s legal challenge, which claimed that his imprisonment was unlawful because President Barack Obama has declared an end to hostilities in Afghanistan. In January 2015 President Obama declared that “our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.” Muktar Yahya Najee Al-Warafi’s lawyers argued that since the United States was no longer involved in the war in Afghanistan, his detention was now unlawful under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which was the legal basis for the imprisonment of foreign fighters captured on overseas battlefields.

  • SurveillanceGerman prosecutors charge news Web site with treason over leaks of surveillance plan

    German authorities have launched a treason investigation into a news Web site which had reported on government plans to broaden state surveillance of online communications. This is the first time in more than fifty years that German journalists are facing treason charges for publishing leaked documents.

  • HackingFireEye: Kremlin-backed hackers used Twitter to mask attacks on U.S.

    FireEye the other day released a new Threat Intelligence report which analyzes the functionality and obfuscation tactics of an advanced piece of malware employed by the likely Russian government-backed Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group APT29. APT29 combines steganography, cloud storage, and social media services to fly under the radar of network defenders.

  • LandminesNew 3-D camera technology to uncover hidden landmines

    It is estimated there are 110 million landmines buried across the world, with the potential to kill and maim innocent men, women, and children for decades to come. Yet landmine detection techniques have barely changed since the Second World War. The UN estimates that, using current technology, it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the estimated 110 million landmines situated in seventy countries. Researchers are exploring new landmine detection technologies.

  • Personal protection equipmentBoxfish shell inspires new materials for body armor

    The boxfish’s unique armor draws its strength from hexagon-shaped scales and the connections between them, engineers have found. The engineers say that the structure of the boxfish could serve as inspiration for body armor, robots, and even flexible electronics.

  • Public heathState immunization laws should eliminate non-medical exemptions: Internists

    Support for eliminating existing exemptions, except for medical reasons, from immunization laws was among the policy recommendations adopted last weekend at the summer meeting of the Board of Regents of the American College of Physicians (ACP). “Allowing exemptions based on non-medical reasons poses a risk both to the unvaccinated person and to public health,” said Wayne J. Riley, M.D., president of ACP. “Intentionally unvaccinated individuals can pose a danger to the public, especially to individuals who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

  • GridForecasting tool reduces costly power grid errors

    Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. Now, a new forecasting tool that delivers up to a 50 percent increase in accuracy and the potential to save millions in wasted energy costs has been developed by researchers.

  • ResilienceNew study narrows the gap between climate models and reality

    Climate models are used to estimate future global warming, and their accuracy can be checked against the actual global warming observed so far. Most comparisons suggest that the world is warming a little more slowly than the model projections indicate. Scientists have wondered whether this difference is meaningful, or just a chance fluctuation. A new study finds that the way global temperatures were calculated in the models failed to reflect real-world measurements. The climate models use air temperature for the whole globe, whereas the real-world data used by scientists are a combination of air and sea surface temperature readings.

  • Coastal resilienceCoral reefs could protect Pacific islands from rising seas – but only if global warming slows

    The coral reefs that have protected Pacific Islanders from storm waves for thousands of years could grow rapidly enough to keep up with escalating sea levels if ocean temperatures do not rise too quickly, according to a new study. If global temperatures continue to rise and thus retard the growth of these natural storm barriers, the homelands of millions of people on lands throughout the Pacific Ocean will be in jeopardy.