• Military spendingWorld military spending: Increases in the U.S., Europe, decreases in oil-exporting countries

    Total world military expenditure rose to $1686 billion in 2016, an increase of 0.4 percent in real terms from 2015, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Military spending in North America saw its first annual increase since 2010, while spending in Western Europe grew for the second consecutive year.

  • Global risksPopulism, terrorism converge to compound global risks

    Aon publishes 2017 Risk Maps for Political Risk, Terrorism and Political Violence shows there has been a 14 percent increase in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2016, up to 4,151 from 3,633 in 2015. Western countries saw a 174 percent increase in terrorist attacks in 2016, up from 35 attacks in 2015 to 96 attacks in 2016. Oil and gas companies were the target of 41 percent of terrorist attacks on commercial interests in 2016 and the trend has continued in 2017. But 2017 marks the first year in the last four where as many countries experienced a decline in political risk for investors as those experiencing an increase. This suggests a modest improvement in economic resilience after many years of deterioration. The potential for divergence between the United States and Europe around sanctions regimes could create uncertainty for investors in Iran, Russia, and even Cuba.

  • GunsOne in five U.S. gun owners obtained firearm without background check

    One in five U.S. gun owners who obtained a firearm in the past two years did so without a background check, according to a new national survey. The study also found the share of gun owners who acquired firearms via private sale without background checks was significantly larger (57 percent) in states without laws regulating such purchases than in states with legislative regulations (26 percent). It has been earlier estimated that 40 percent of gun transfers were conducted without background checks.

  • Emerging threatsYes, we can do “sound” climate science even though it’s projecting the future

    By Kevin Trenberth and Reto Knutti

    Increasingly in the current U.S. administration and Congress, questions have been raised about the use of proper scientific methods and accusations have been made about using flawed approaches. This is especially the case with regard to climate science, as evidenced by the hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Lamar Smith, on 29 March 2017. Chairman Smith accused climate scientists of straying “outside the principles of the scientific method.” Smith repeated his oft-stated assertion that scientific method hinges on “reproducibility,” which he defined as “a repeated validation of the results.” He also asserted that the demands of scientific verification altogether preclude long-range prediction. The kinds of statements are misguided. They show a woeful ignorance about science and how it works, and in particular about climate science. Consequently, they ignore sound advice on how to best plan for the future.

  • Emerging threatsPlanet’s response to greenhouse gas emissions: Models, observations not so far apart

    How hot our planet will become for a given amount of greenhouse gases is a key number in climate change. As the calculation of how much warming is locked in by a given amount of emissions, it is crucial for global policies to curb global warming. It is also one of the most hotly debated numbers in climate science. Observations in the past decade seem to suggest a value that is lower than predicted by models. But a University of Washington study shows that two leading methods for calculating how hot the planet will get are not as far apart as they have appeared.

  • Water securityNew filtration method makes water safe to drink

    Researchers have created a membrane that removes viruses from treated wastewater and makes it safe for drinking. The new ultrafiltration method does not rely on chlorine, the commonly used chemical to purify water, which can cause contamination.

  • Flying carsFlying car commercially available at a price of 1.2 million Euros

    Bratislava, Slovakia-based AeroMobil last week unveiled the new model of the AeroMobil Flying Car at Top Marques Monaco, the world’s leading car show. The flying car offers customers the choice of “all the functionality and flexibility a car and an airplane can provide,” the company says. The flying car can travel in almost any weather conditions, and it has a flying range of about 1,000 km. For added safety, the flying car I equipped with a recovery ballistic parachute technology, which allows the pilot to bring an airborne vehicle back to ground by parachuting, rather than landing. The company says the production of AeroMobil’s first vehicle will be limited to a maximum of 500 units and is priced between 1.2 million and 1.5 million Euros.

  • ISISISIS control of people down 83% in Iraq, 56% in Syria from peak levels

    The Islamic State has lost substantial control of territory and people since 2014 in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and Nigeria — and is on a path to collapse as a self-proclaimed state, according to data compiled in a new report. Still, the Islamic State continues to conduct and inspire attacks around the world in an effort to exact revenge on its enemies, coerce the withdrawal of foreign forces, and bait foreign governments into overreacting. These attacks may even increase once the group loses its core caliphate.

  • North KoreaThe worry over North Korea

    The risk of war on the Korean peninsula is low, says a nuclear arms expert. “Both sides are rattling sabers, but neither side is going to start a war,” says Belfer Center’s Gary Samore. “We recognize that a military attack on North Korea would probably not be effective in terms of destroying North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program and would run the risk of a North Korean retaliation against South Korea and Japan, which could cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And the North Koreans know that any attack on U.S. allies in the region would provoke an American response that would destroy them.”

  • CybersecurityCybersecurity firm trains students for high-tech heroics

    With newscasts regularly portraying a menacing picture of cybercrime, Indiana State University Professor Bill Mackey — and the students he teaches — is almost guaranteed job security. Perhaps the biggest news story this spring involves the Russians, the Democratic National Committee and, possibly, the Trump White House. It also involves exactly the focus of Mackey and his cyber security company, Alloy. Preventing the human missteps is exactly what Mackey’s enterprise does that’s different from almost everyone else: They marry the technological part (the computer-code breaking) with the human element for a mixture of tech and cybercriminology.

  • Oil spillsBP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources

    The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to the natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists recently found after a six-year study of the impact of the largest oil spill in U.S. history. This is the first comprehensive appraisal of the financial value of the natural resources damaged by the 134-million-gallon spill.

  • CybersecurityMalware behavior detection technology commercialized

    Virginia-based Lenvio Inc. has exclusively licensed a cybersecurity technology from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory – a technology that can quickly detect malicious behavior in software not previously identified as a threat. The platform, known as Hyperion, uses sophisticated algorithms to seek out both legitimate and malicious software behavior, identify malware such as viruses or executable files undetected by standard methods, and ultimately help reduce the risk of cyberattacks.

  • Nuclear forensicsNew nuclear forensics signature discovery capability to help trace origins of plutonium

    Two weeks ago the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) joined with partners at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to launch the Plutonium Processing Signatures Discovery capability. The new capability, the result of a four-year effort, represents a significant technological advancement in nuclear forensics that will improve our ability to trace the origins of plutonium. Nuclear forensics involves determining where illicit or smuggled radioactive material came from. In the event of a nuclear weapon detonation, knowing where radioactive material came from can help investigators determine who’s responsible.

  • CrimeEyewitness confidence may predict accuracy of identifications

    Many individuals have been falsely accused of a crime based, at least in part, on confident eyewitness identifications, a fact that has bred distrust of eyewitness confidence in the U.S. legal system. But a new report challenges the perception that eyewitness memory is inherently fallible, finding that eyewitness confidence can reliably indicate the accuracy of an identification made under certain, “pristine” conditions.

  • Energy securityClean power planning

    By Mark Dwortzan

    With a single executive order issued at the end of March, the Trump administration launched a robust effort to roll back Obama-era climate policies designed to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Chief among those policies is the Clean Power Plan, which targets coal and natural gas-fired electric power plants that account for about 40 percent of the nation’s CO2 emissions. Private and public-sector investors may see the executive order as a green light to double down on relatively cheap fossil fuels and reduce holdings in more costly, climate-friendly, non-carbon generation technologies such as wind, solar and nuclear. But they may want to think twice before making such transactions – and a new study details why it’s prudent to invest in carbon-free electricity now.

  • BioterrorismBioterrorists, using genetic editing, could kill more than 30 million people: Bill Gates

    A bioterrorist attack could kill thirty million people — and such an attack is becoming more likely because it has become much easier to create – or “design” — deadly pathogens and spread them. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, speaking in London, said that an outbreak of a lethal respiratory virus like smallpox would be more dangerous than even a nuclear attack. Anyone can now purchase chemistry kits which allow genetic editing, and do so online for under $150.

  • Visa Waiver programU.S. considering major changes to Visa Waiver program

    Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said the Trump administration is considering making changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), making it harder for Europeans travelling to the United States. Kelly said the existing rules, which do not require citizens of thirty-eight countries to get a visa for a trip of less than three months to the United States, should be re-evaluated in light of concerns about terrorism. “We have to start looking very hard at that [visa waiver] program,” he said.

  • Border wallBorder wall plans spur effort to help Texas landowners with eminent domain

    By Julián Aguilar

    As the Trump administration sets its sights on building a barrier on the country’s southern border, a group of Texas attorneys aims to help border residents ensure they are properly compensated for whatever land the government seizes. The Texas Civil Rights Project says it will focus its efforts on lower-income residents who don’t have the skills or knowledge needed to fight through the complicated eminent domain process that’s looming as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security moves ahead with plans for the wall’s construction.

  • CybersecurityInternet Atlas maps the physical elements of the internet to enhance security

    Despite the internet-dependent nature of our world, a thorough understanding of the internet’s physical makeup has only recently emerged. Researchers have developed Internet Atlas, the first detailed map of the internet’s structure worldwide. Though the physical elements of the internet may be out of sight for the average user, they are crucial pieces of the physical infrastructure that billions of people rely on.

  • Cybersecurity2017 Cyber Defense Competition tests infrastructure vulnerability

    More than 100 college and high school students from nine states honed their cyber defense skills against experts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory during Argonne’s second annual Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. In the competition, fifteen college teams defended mock electrical and water utilities from the repeated cyberattacks of a team of experts from Argonne, the Illinois and Wisconsin National Guard, and the technology industry.

  • Yellow feverPreventing yellow fever resurgence

    Many people might not have heard of the Aedes aegypti mosquito until this past year, when the mosquito, and the disease it can carry – Zika – began to make headlines. But more than 220 years ago, this same breed of mosquito was spreading a different and deadly epidemic in Philadelphia and just like Zika, this epidemic is seeing a modern resurgence, with Brazil at its epicenter. “The challenge with diseases like yellow fever and Zika is that the conditions that foster an outbreak are not always avoidable, especially in tropical climates, and therefore a vaccine is needed to prevent infection,” says one expert.

  • Volcanic eruptions Scientific challenge: Better preparation for volcanic eruptions

    Volcano monitoring is critical for forecasting eruptions and mitigating risks of their hazards. However, few volcanoes are adequately observed, and many are not monitored at all. For example, fewer than half of the 169 potentially active volcanoes in the U.S. have any seismometers – an instrument to detect small earthquakes that signal underground magma movement. And only three have continuous gas measurements, which are crucial because the composition and quantity of dissolved gases in magma drive eruptions. Enhanced monitoring combined with advances in experimental and mathematical models of volcanic processes can improve the understanding and forecasting of eruptions, a new report says.