Today's news

  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. municipal data centers prepare to cope with sea-level rise

    The National Academy of Sciences says that 316 coastal cities in the United States are expected to be affected by sea-level rise within the next few decades. Those responsible for infrastructure maintenance are now considering how they can be better prepared for this eventuality. Among their tasks is the protection of data centers which handle much of the world’s information.

  • Border securityFormer head of Internal Affairs at CBP: Agency suffers from “institutional narcissism”; conducting its affairs beyond “constitutional constraints”

    By Robert Lee Maril

    In what may become the most explosive scandal in the history of the U.S. Border Patrol, James F. Tomsheck, former head of Internal Affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), accused his own agency of protecting its agents from criminal charges including murder, corruption, and graft. Tomsheck also directly pointed the finger at CBP senior management including former Commissioner Alan Bersin and Chief David Aguilar. Tomsheck, who served until June of this year as the head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, characterized his agency as suffering from “institutional narcissism” and maintaining a culture which allowed its agents to act beyond “constitutional constraints”

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  • EbolaNIH launching human safety study of Ebola vaccine candidate

    The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will this week begin initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease. The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults. The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

  • Cargo securityTraceable fingerprints for freight items

    Security is a top priority in air freight logistics, but screening procedures can be time consuming and costly. Researchers intend to boost efficiency with a new approach to digital logistics, without sacrificing the security of air freight operations. The researchers are working, among other things, on a marker that can be used to verify whether a freight item has already been X-rayed — something that has not been traceable. The researchers are additionally developing an RFID seal in order to detect subsequent tampering with a shipment.

  • Nuclear proliferationScientists improve accuracy, reliability of nuclear tests inspection

    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) operates the International Monitoring System (IMS) — 279 sensors-equipped facilities around the world which detect four types of physical phenomena that can provide evidence of a nuclear explosion having taken place: seismic waves, radioactive nuclei, underwater sound waves, and infrasonic waves. The evidence from the IMS is not always enough to convince signatories of the CTBT that a nuclear test has taken place. Scientists are trying to improve the accuracy and reliability of the IMS system.

  • EbolaWest Africa Ebola cases to rise to 20,000; in Liberia virus uncontainable: WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday warned the number of Ebola cases could rise to 20,000, while doctors in Liberia say the virus is now spreading so rapidly that the Ebola epidemic, at least in Liberia, can no longer be contained by the resources available in the country. WHO says the outbreak is accelerating throughout west Africa, where the number of deaths yesterday crossed the 1,500 mark, with 1,552 confirmed deaths. The number of those infected reached 3,069 – but health specialists say the numbers of those infected could be two to four times higher. The health care infrastructure in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leon is so poor, and large parts of each country have no meaningful health care system at all, that reports of those infected with the Ebola virus and those who died from it must be considered as underestimates.

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  • EbolaPotential therapy for the Sudan strain of Ebola may contain some future outbreaks

    Ebola is a rare but deadly disease that exists as five strains, none of which has approved therapies. One of the most lethal strains is the Sudan Ebolavirus (SUDV). Although not the strain currently devastating West Africa, SUDV has caused widespread illness, even as recently as 2012. In a new study appearing in the journal ACS Chemical Biology, researchers report a possible therapy that could someday help treat patients infected with SUDV.

  • TerrorismISIS threat in Iraq exposes Obama’s failed policy in Syria: Administration insiders

    President Barack Obama has been coming under growing criticism over his policy – or, as some critics would argue, lack of policy — toward the Jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria. The criticism is increasingly coming from members of his own administration. They argue that the failure to help the moderate elements among the Syrian rebels not only helped Assad stay in power, but also allowed the Jihadists to cement their power over a large swath of Syria and then move south to control a third of Iraq. The president has recently asked for $500 million to help train moderate Syrian rebels, but even those who supported such a move two years ago say it may be too late.

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  • EarthquakesNapa earthquake may persuade lawmakers to fund earthquake warning system

    Last Sunday’s Napa earthquake may push Congress to increase funding for an earthquake warning system. Building out the West Coast earthquake warning system, called ShakeAlert, would cost $120 million over five years, and an additional $16 million a year to operate. Today, ShakeAlert operates in a testing phase, and sensors notify researchers and volunteer participants when an earthquake has been detected.

  • EarthquakesSeismic retrofitting of older buildings helps, but it has its limits

    Even before last Sunday’s magnitude-6 earthquake struck Napa, officials anticipated that such an event would damage many of Napa’s historic brick buildings. So years ago, brick structures were required to get seismic retrofitting — bolting brick walls to ceilings and floors to make them stronger. “We can’t keep every single brick in place in many of these older buildings without extraordinarily costly retrofits,” says a structural engineer. “We can reduce the damage in losses, but not eliminate them entirely in older buildings.”

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  • Real IDResidents of six Real ID-noncompliant states to face restrictions

    Massachusetts is one of the six states whose residents are unable to enter restricted parts of federal buildings without another identification card, such as a passport. The REAL ID measure requires states to verify citizenship and update security standards when issuing licenses. Officials in Massachusetts, Maine, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, and Louisiana say that the REAL ID program will cost millions and that it raises privacy concerns and infringes on state’ rights.

  • First respondersNYC tracks firefighters to scene with radio tags, automated display

    Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City has been pursuing ways better to coordinate the 14,000 firefighters and emergency response it employs. Prior to 9/11, the Fire Department New York (FDNY) used a paper/carbon-copy ride list to account for who’s present). Now, on fifteen of its vehicles, FDNY can automatically see which firefighters are nearby from the onboard computer, and relay that information to the city’s Operations Center.

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  • FrackingBetter solutions for recycle fracking water

    Scientists have performed a detailed analysis of water produced by hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) of three gas reservoirs and suggested environmentally friendly remedies are needed to treat and reuse it. More advanced recycling rather than disposal of “produced” water pumped back out of wells could calm fears of accidental spillage and save millions of gallons of fresh water a year.

  • TerrorismMost of 2013 terrorist attacks took place in only a few countries

    The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). In 2013, 11,952 terrorist attacks resulted in 22,178 fatalities (including perpetrator deaths) and 37,529 injuries across 91 countries. More than half of all attacks (54 percent), fatalities (61 percent), and injuries (69 percent) occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

  • Law enforcement technologyObama orders review of transferring military gear to local police

    President Barack Obama has announced a review of federal programs that transfer surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. The review will decide whether the programs are needed, if agencies are properly trained to work with the military grade equipment they receive, and whether the federal government is effectively keeping track of the equipment and their use.

  • ISISGoing the distance: does Islamic State have staying power?

    By Denis Dragovic

    The rise of Islamic State (IS) across parts of the Middle East has galvanized the international community in a way not seen since September 11. But before a military response is considered, Western nations need to ask whether IS has staying power. Establishing a functional state will depend upon the militants’ ability to transition the skills gained in fighting wars to those required for governance. In particular, success will be necessary in three areas: establishing public security, delivering basic goods and services, and creating a perception of legitimacy. History tells us these criteria — not democratic niceties, secularism, or a moderate hand — will make or break IS. Snippets of information suggest that IS is likely to last, especially as its power is buttressed by considerable support from Iraq’s disenfranchised Sunni Arabs. The best option to weaken IS is to weaken its ability to monopolize the provision of basic needs to the people. This option will impact those who are passive bystanders swept up in the turmoil rather than the militants, but considering the extreme nature of the threat IS poses, as well as IS’s breaches of the most basic and universally held codes of morality, it may well be that in this case, the ends could justify the means.

  • Social networksSocial networks aim to curb terror posts

    Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram have all become a staple of everyday Western lifestyles – and these avenues have also become more interesting for terrorists to exploit to advance their goals. These companies admit, however, that curbing free speech and screening violent and hateful content does involve walking a fine line.

  • SurveillanceNew 3D technology helps in identifying long-distance threats

    At present, surveillance systems have difficulty capturing even 2D images at long range under normal sunlight conditions. The ability to extract high-resolution 3D video information up to hundreds of meters away, particularly in bright sunshine, would be a major advance. It would have immediate applications in the security and defense industries, for example for long-distance face-recognition, improved identification of left luggage, or the detection of concealed weapons.

  • EmergenciesSmartphones can save life in health emergencies

    MAs more Americans adopt smartphones for communicating, managing calendars, and storing contacts, but these all-in-one devices could also be used to save lives in health emergencies. Companies are developing apps that allow users to store health data which can then be accessed by emergency services personnel or physicians.

  • FloodsInvestigating potential influences on recent U.K. winter floods

    A comprehensive review of all potential factors behind the 2013-14 U.K. winter floods does not definitively answer whether human activity played a role in the magnitude of the winter flood events. It does, though, examine how factors such as the state of the global oceans may have interacted with wind patterns and subsequent high-level atmospheric features.

  • EnergyExisting power plants will emit 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use

    Existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas, according to a new study. The study is the first to quantify how quickly these “committed” emissions are growing — by about 4 percent per year — as more fossil fuel-burning power plants are built. Assuming these stations will operate for forty years, the power plants constructed globally in 2012 alone will produce about nineteen billion tons of CO2 during their existence, the researchers project.

  • DisastersSunday tremor may accelerate deployment of West Coast early warning system

    Researchers and individuals working with California’s ShakeAlertsystem received a 10-second warning before last Sunday’s earthquake struck the San FranciscoBay Area at 3.20 a.m. “Earthquake! Earthquake!” the warning system cautioned, followed by “Light shaking expected in three seconds.” Mexico and Japan already have a public earthquake warning system, but a collaboration in California among several institutions to create a similar system is still in an experimental phase. The project needs about $80 million for equipment, software, and other seismic infrastructure upgrades to launch the warning system throughout the West Coast.