• Burkini banFrench court suspends Burkini ban, declaring the prohibition “clearly illegal”

    France’s highest administrative court has earlier today (Friday) ruled that Burkini bans now enforced on the country’s beaches are illegal and a violation of fundamental liberties. Burkinis are swimsuits covering the hair and body, which some Muslim women in France began to wear earlier this summer, arguing the Burkini allows them to go the beach while preserving their modesty. Supporters of the ban argue that the. The spread of the Burkini bans from Nice, where it was launched, to many beach communities around the country, has sparked an intense debate about France’s secular values, women’s rights, and religious freedom.

  • Chemical weaponsWatchdog: Evidence suggests Assad kept chemical weapons program in violation of 2013 deal

    After launching a lethal sarin gas attack in August 20013 — which killed 1,400 Sunni civilians in a Damascus suburb — the Assad regime agreed to get rid of its nerve agents under the supervision of OPWC, the UN chemical weapons watchdog. In summer 2014 OPCW announced that Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile had been removed – but in a classified report submitted Wednesday to the Security Council, OPWC says that Syria has violated the 2013w agreement by keeping some of its chemical weapons program, and by continuing to use chemical weapons in attacks against civilians.

  • Seismic shieldLarge-scale metamaterials could earthquake-proof buildings in tremor-prone regions

    Metamaterials – artificial structures that exhibit extraordinary vibrational properties – could come to the rescue of regions threatened by earthquakes, according to new research. The study, performed by researchers in Europe and involving detailed computer simulations, shows that large-scale metamaterials can attenuate the energy and amplitude of harmful low-frequency vibrations associated with seismic shocks.

  • Seismic predictionsCan we get better at predicting earthquakes?

    By Michel Campillo and Rob van der Hilst

    In the wake of the deadly earthquake, measuring 6.2, which rocked central Italy in the early hours of 24 August, questions again have been raised about whether earthquakes can be predicted. Fortunately, all earthquakes do not lead to disasters and, therefore, understanding where and why disasters are produced is the first goal of earthquake seismology. The first issue is thus one of semantics and objectives. Is the goal to predict an earthquake occurrence, predict ground motion due to an earthquake, or predict a disaster? In our efforts to better predict earthquakes, we have to be precise about the timescale: is it a prediction that an earthquake is imminent – that is, within seconds, hours, or even days before the shaking? Or that it is likely to happen within years or tens of years? There is hope that one day we could detect and monitor extremely slight changes in the rocks that would precede earthquakes – but this is still a long way from “prediction” of precisely when and where a disaster will occur. For now, knowing earthquakes is one way to live with them, to be prepared, to know the vulnerability of our communities and to adopt sound policies for earthquake-safe environments.

  • Post-disaster recoveryOptimizing choice of post-disaster recovery options by analyzing entire cities

    Civic leaders and engineers are typically faced with a very large number of possible recovery options in the aftermath of a major catastrophic event, such as a hurricane or an earthquake. “If you are trying to solve a problem that has, say, ten possible outcomes — you can probably find a way to figure out which one is optimal; [b]ut what if the possible solutions number as high as 10 to the 120th power?” ask researchers. They have developed a versatile and novel technique which is the first to factor in so many elements, demonstrating its effectiveness on transportation network recovery in imagined post-earthquake San Diego.

  • Nuclear forensicsNuclear forensics summer program trains students for a future in nuclear security

    A sure sign of summer is the return of interns to the Lawrence Livermore campus. Students interact with premier researchers and access equipment and facilities not available anywhere else, while scientists lay groundwork for advancing their fields. LLNL runs an eight-week summer internship for students interested in nuclear science and its range of specialties — nuclear forensics, environmental radiochemistry, nuclear physics, and beyond. Together, these disciplines support the laboratory’s nuclear security mission through analysis of nuclear processes and properties.

  • Water securityCombining high performance computing, public policy analysis for better water resource management

    With growing demand and a changing climate, the Colorado River Basin is under significant stress. The river supplies water to thirty million people in seven states, supports billions of dollars in economic activity each year, and irrigates 15 percent of all U.S. crops. It also provides water to twenty-two Native American tribes, four national recreation areas, and eleven national parks. Researchers have joined forces to combine high-performance computing with innovative public policy analysis to improve planning for particularly complex issues such as such as water resource management.

  • GunsU.S. has given 1.4 million guns to Iraq, Afghanistan -- but doesn’t know where, by whom these weapons are currently being used

    The United States has given more than 1.4 million guns to Iraqi and Afghan forces, as part of the more than $40 billion worth of U.S. Department of Defense arms and munitions contracts since 9/11. The Pentagon has only partial, and not necessarily accurate, information not only about the total number of firearms involved, but how, where, and by whom these weapons are currently being used. Journalists have offered evidenced that many firearms openly available for purchase on black markets and on social media throughout the Middle East were originally provided by the Pentagon to U.S. associates in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Middle EastIran threatened to halt nuke talks if U.S. bombed Assad, WSJ reporter says

    President Barack Obama changed his mind about launching a retaliatory strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces carried out a sarin gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people in August 2013, after Iran threatened to pull out of then-secret nuclear talks, the chief foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal said on Monday.

  • Children terroristsHow the Islamic State recruits and coerces children

    By Mia Bloom

    This week the world once again witnessed an Islamic State’s use of at least one child bomber, perhaps two – this time for blowing up the wedding in Gaziantep, Turkey, killing fifty-four people on 20 August. There are important differences in how groups engage children in militant activities. Differences between children in terrorist groups and child soldiers include how children are recruited and what role the parents and community play in recruitment. Understanding these differences helps us know how best to approach treating the children’s trauma, and figure out which children can be rehabilitated and which ones might be vulnerable for recidivism as adults. The number of children who have been exposed to violence in the so-called Islamic State requires efforts be taken to address the trauma, and determine whether these children are victims or perpetrators.

  • School securityFrench schools to hold security drills, including mock terrorist attacks

    As part of the French government’s bolstering of security measures in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks, French schools, beginning with the new school year, will now conduct three security drills a year – including at least one drill in which a mock assailants enter the school building.

  • African securityUN releases follow-up to report on the mysterious death of former UN chief Hammarskjöld

    UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon the other day released a follow-up note to the 2015 report of an Independent Panel of Experts that was established to examine and assess new information regarding the 1961 death of former UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld. Hammarskjöld’s plane crashed in September 1961 near Ndola, in what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, and is now Zambia. He was on his way t negotiate an end to the war between Congo, which was supported by the Soviet Union, and the breakaway, mining-rich region of Katanga, which was supported by Belgium (openly) and the United States (covertly).The UN is especially frustrated with the United Kingdom for not releasing more intelligence documents which would shed light on the question of whether Hammarskjöld’s plane was brought down by Western intelligence services who wanted Katanga to remain independent of Congo.

  • SurveillanceMany sections of Baltimore are under secret, constant aerial video surveillance by BPD

    The Baltimore Police Department has secretly deployed a surveillance system using planes and powerful cameras that can continuously record 30-square-mile sections of the city at once. The technology, which is run by a private company, was originally developed for the Defense Department for use in Iraq. It stores the video footage for an undetermined amount of time, and police can use it to retroactively track any pedestrian or vehicle within the surveillance area.

  • TortureWhy do some people more readily accept the use of torture?

    Psychologists have shown that authoritarian people and those who perceive their own group as socially superior to others are often more inclined to accept the use of torture. The thing that unites them is not primarily the urge to defend their own group, but their strong tendency to dehumanize people who do not resemble their own kind.

  • Fuel cellsWider temperature tolerance is based on ion-pair-coordinated polymers

    A new class of fuel cells based on a newly discovered polymer-based material could bridge the gap between the operating temperature ranges of two existing types of polymer fuel cells, a breakthrough with the potential to accelerate the commercialization of low-cost fuel cells for automotive and stationary applications.

  • Coastal perilRising seas threaten 1.9 million U.S. homes with current value of $882 billion

    Typically when we talk about “underwater” homes, we are referring to negative equity. But there is a more literal way a home can be underwater: Rising sea levels, and the flooding likely to come with them, could inundate millions of U.S. homes worth hundreds of billions of dollars. If sea levels rise as much as climate scientists predict by the year 2100, almost 300 U.S. cities would lose at least half their homes, and 36 U.S. cities would be completely lost. The total combined current value of all homes at risk of being underwater with a 6-feet rise in sea levels is $882 billion.

  • SyriaLarge Turkish forces enter Syria to drive ISIS out of border area

    Dozens of Turkish tanks have crossed into Syria earlier this morning as part of a massive operation – code named “Euphrates Shield” — to capture ISIS strongholds around the town of Jarablus and drive the militants out of the area. The land invasion, which also included hundreds of troops, follows hours of relentless airstrikes and artillery barrages against ISIS targets along the Syria-Turkey border. Among the targets hit in the bombardment were arms depots and oil tanks, and huge explosions lighted up the night sky.

  • ColombiaColombia, FARC to sign historic peace deal today, ending 52-year war

    Colombia’s government and the leftist FARC rebel organization have reached a final and comprehensive peace agreement which puts an end to Latin America’s longest war. The FARC campaign against successive Colombian governments began in 1964, leaving more than 220,000 people dead and more than six-and-a-half million displaced. After four years of negotiations, the pace deal will be signed Wednesday evening in Havana, Cuba.

  • Brain-eating amoebaFlorida teen only the 4th U.S. survivor of brain-eating amoeba claiming 97 percent mortality rate

    A 16-year-old South Florida boy has defied the odds by becoming only the fourth U.S. patient to survive an attack by brain-eating amoeba.Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams. If the amoeba enters the body through the nose, it typically makes it way to the brain, causing an extremely rare and destructive infection of the brain. In the past fifty years, only four people in the United States have been reported to have survived out of the 138 cases reported, giving it almost a 97 percent mortality rate.

  • FloodsSuburban sprawl and poor preparation worsened flood damage in Louisiana

    By Craig E. Colten

    The proximate cause of this month’s extraordinary flooding in southeast Louisiana was a slow-moving storm system that dropped up to two feet of rain in the upper reaches of the Amite and Comite river basins, which drain southern Mississippi and flow into Lake Pontchartrain. There are parallels between the damage of current flooding and the damage caused by Katrina. In both cases, human decisions magnified the consequences of extreme natural events. Planning and permitting enabled development in areas that had experienced repeat floods, and agencies had failed to complete projects designed to mitigate flood damage before the storms hit. If there is one lesson we have learned about floods, it is that records are made to be broken. So in addition to planning for the last flood, we need to anticipate higher water than our current benchmarks.

  • Psychopathology & leadershipPresidential candidates may be psychopaths – but this is not necessarily a bad thing

    Oxford University’s Dr. Kevin Dutton has spent much of his career looking at psychopaths and researching psychopathic traits, identifying those which can be of benefit and those which can lead to incarceration. He contends that being a psychopath is not an all-or-nothing affair. Instead, psychopathy is on a spectrum along which each of us has our place. In a new study, Dutton finds that Donald Trump ranks above Adolf Hitler and only just below Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, and Henry VIII. Hillary Clinton ranks between Napoleon and Nero.

  • DronesTechnical problems rather than operator errors cause most drone accidents

    Research has found that technical problems rather than operator errors are behind the majority of drone accidents, leading to a call for further safeguards for the industry. One of the researchers said the findings illustrated the need for further airworthiness requirements for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), as well as the mandatory reporting of all accidents or incidents. “Understanding what happens to drones, even those that don’t cause damage to people or property, is essential to improve safety,” he said.