• Cultural terrorismA first: ICC sentences Islamist to nine years for cultural destruction in Timbuktu

    The International Criminal Court sentenced an Islamist militant to nine years in jail for ordering members of the Islamist Ansar Dine group in northern Mali to destroy historic shrines and mausoleums in Timbuktu, and burn hundreds of ancient books. The destruction took place in between April and December 2012, when the Islamists controlled the break-away northern Mali – which they called the Republic of Azawad – after chasing the Mali army away. A three-judge panel in The Hague sentenced Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdiin the first-ever case of an individual being charged with war crimes solely for cultural destruction.

  • Terrorism & social mediaJudge questions whether Facebook is doing enough to deter terrorists from using its platform

    A federal judge harshly criticized Facebook, admonishing the social media giant for not be doing enough to deter terrorists from using its platform. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, New York, also accused Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Facebook’s lawyers — who had sent a first-year associate to a hearing — of not taking seriously lawsuits which touch on important issues such as international terrorism and the murder of innocents. “I think it is outrageous, irresponsible, and insulting,” Garaufis told the attorney. The judge ordered the law firm to send a more senior lawyer to the next hearing on 28 September because he wanted to “talk to someone who talks to senior management at Facebook.”

  • TerrorismEuropean security services worry about a wave of female terrorists

    The security services in France have grown increasingly worried about a new wave of female terrorist recruits. The concern has grown over the last few weeks, as arrests were made of French women, some of them teen-agers, who had pledged  allegiance to ISIS. Earlier this month French police arrested two young women, 17 and 19, who were being groomed to carry out an attack on “specific targets” in France in retaliation for the recent death of the ISIS leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Since the beginning of September, the French security services have arrested six women for plotting terrorists attacks.

  • Which best protects your privacy: Apps or Web sites? It depends

    To protect your privacy, should you use the app — or a Web browser? This is the question researchers ask in new research that explores how free app — and Web-based services on Android and iOS mobile devices — compare with respect to protecting users’ privacy. In particular, the researchers investigated the degree to which each platform leaks personally identifiable information. The answer? “It depends,” they say.

  • SurveillanceFeds: We can read all your e-mail, and you’ll never know

    By Clark D. Cunningham

    Fear of hackers reading private e-mails in cloud-based systems like Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo has recently sent regular people and public officials scrambling to delete entire accounts full of messages dating back years. What we don’t expect is our own government to hack our e-mail — but it’s happening. Federal court cases going on right now are revealing that federal officials can read all your e-mail without your knowledge. For example, in the case of U.S. v. Ravelo, pending in Newark, New Jersey, the government used a search warrant to download the entire contents of a lawyer’s personal cellphone – more than 90,000 items including text messages, e-mails, contact lists, and photos. When the phone’s owner complained to a judge, the government argued it could look at everything (except for privileged lawyer-client communications) before the court even issued a ruling. The judge in Ravelo is expected to issue a preliminary ruling on the feds’ arguments sometime in October. All Americans should be watching carefully to what happens next in these cases – the government may be already watching you without your knowledge.

  • GunsSeventy million more firearms added to U.S. gunstock over past twenty years

    The estimated number of privately owned guns in America grew by more than seventy million — to approximately 265 million — between 1994 and 2015. Long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, make up the majority of the U.S. gunstock. But handguns represent the majority of new guns acquired over the past twenty years, making up 42 percent of the total civilian-owned gunstock in the United States, compared to one-third two decades ago.

  • Coastal resilienceDetecting sea-level rise acceleration to improve U.K. coastal flood defenses

    Accelerations in the rate of sea-level rise and the time required to upgrade coastal flood defense infrastructure, such as the Thames Barrier, will be investigated as part of a new research initiative. The E-Rise project will aim to better understand the likely lead times for upgrading or replacing coastal defense infrastructure around the United Kingdom during the twenty-first century. It will also assess whether we could detect sea-level accelerations earlier to provide sufficient lead time for action.

  • Emerging threatsDamaging, costly extreme-weather winters are becoming more common in U.S.

    The simultaneous occurrence of warm winters in the West and cold winters in the East has significantly increased in recent decades. The damaging and costly phenomenon is very likely attributable to human-caused climate change, according to a new study. In the past three years alone the combination of heat-related drought in the West and Arctic conditions in the East have pinched the national economy, costing several billion dollars in insured losses, government aid and lost productivity. When such weather extremes occur at the same time, they threaten to stretch emergency responders’ disaster assistance abilities, strain resources such as interregional transportation, and burden taxpayer-funded disaster relief.

  • SurveillanceSwiss approve broader surveillance powers for the government

    A majority of 65.5 percent of Swiss voters have on Sunday approved a new surveillance law, agreeing with the government’s argument that that the country’s security services needed more powers in an increasingly dangerous world. Relative to other European countries, the Swiss police and intelligence agencies have had limited investigative powers. For example, the law which was updated on Sunday had banned phone tapping and e-mail surveillance under any circumstances.

  • TerroristsNumber of terrorists in U.K. jails peaks

    The number of terrorist held prisoner in British jails 152 — fifty higher than five years ago, according to the latest set of quarterly reports from the Home Office. The reported record number of terrorist prisoners come one month after the Acheson review, which said that past complacency had allowed Islamic extremism to flourish in British jails, and two weeks after the government has launched a new initiative to build specialized high-security units in jails to separate the most subversive inmates from the general jail population.

  • ColombiaChe Guevara era ends: FARC ratifies Colombia peace accord, ending 52-year war

    Colombia’s FARC rebel group on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a peace deal with the government, officially declaring an end to the 52-year war. The insurgent group now prepares to transform itself into a new political party. The title of one article offering an analysis of the momentous even captured it all: “Che Guevara era closes as Latin America’s oldest guerrilla army calls it a day.” “This is an agreement with the last of the great guerrilla movements that emerged in the context of the cold war,” says one expert. “There might be other episodes, but strategically the armed project, the armed utopia, is closing its cycle with FARC.”

  • ColombiaWill Colombia’s peace deal get the people’s vote?

    By Jennifer Lynn McCoy

    On 26 September 2016, the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) will sign a formal agreement to end fifty years of conflict. The agreement is precedent-setting in several ways. It will be the first negotiated end to a civil conflict in the world under the new international standards of the 2002 Rome Statutes to hold accountable armed combatants who commit grave human rights abuses. It will also be the first peace process to have included victims at the negotiating table. In another innovation, it extends the special justice system to other sectors of the society beyond the FARC, such as civilian sponsors and financiers of paramilitary forces, as well as the government’s security forces. Finally, it will be the first end to a civil war that does not rely primarily on amnesty for all sides, but instead provides new forms of restorative justice. This is a compromise effort to reach peace while also holding perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable, and I believe could serve as a model for the world.

  • Law enforcementViolence against police officers can trigger increased discrimination in police stops

    A new study has found that incidents of extreme violence against police officers can lead to periods of substantially increased racial disparities in the use of force by police. The study, which used data from almost four million time- and geo-coded pedestrian stops in New York City, examined how violent acts against police officers influenced the subsequent use of force by police against racial minorities.

  • Autonomous maritime vehiclesU.S. Navy, allies taking part in first-ever Unmanned Warrior joint exercise

    Autonomy and unmanned systems experts from across the naval science and technology (S&T) community will converge on the shores of the United Kingdom next month for the first-ever Unmanned Warrior joint exercise hosted by the British Royal Navy. The U.S. Navy contingent will experiment with ten technology projects to push the limits of maritime autonomous systems in real-world, challenging operational environments.

  • Oil spillsInsights on Deepwater Horizon disaster

    The soon-to-be-released thriller “Deepwater Horizon,” which opens in theaters 30 September, promises moviegoers a chilling reenactment of one of history’s worst oil rig disasters. One scholar of societal collapse will enter the theater with a big-picture view of the perfect storm of factors that led to the explosion and oil spill that killed eleven people and sent more than 200 million gallons of crude oil spewing toward the nation’s southern coastline for eighty-seven days.

  • Water securityAbnormalities found in drinking water in Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region

    Chemists studying well water quality in the Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region found some abnormal chloride/bromide ratios, alongside evidence of dissolved gases and sporadic episodes of volatile organic compounds, all indicative of some contamination from industrial or agricultural activities in the area.

  • Terror designationAdviser to EU top court recommends removing Hamas, Tamil Tigers from EU terror watch list

    The advocate-general of the European Court of Justice on Thursday advised the court that Hamas and the Tamil Tigers should be removed from the EU’s terror list. He emphasized that the recommendation is the result of his conclusion that the EU governments followed an improper procedures when they decided to add the two groups to the organization’s terror watch list.

  • Water securityRadioactive wastewater enters Florida major aquifer after huge sinkhole opens up below fertilizer plant

    At least 980 million liters of highly contaminated water — including radioactive substances – has leaked into one of Florida’s largest sources of drinking water. The leak was caused by a huge sinkhole which opened up beneath a fertilizer plant near Tampa. The sinkhole caused highly contaminated waste water to pass into an aquifer which supplies much of the state. The waste water contained phosphogypsum, a by-product of fertilizer production, which contains naturally occurring uranium and radium. the Floridan aquifer aquifer underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, supplying groundwater to the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg.

  • Muslims in EuropeMuslim schoolboys in Switzerland must shake hands with female teachers

    Amer Salhani, a 15-year-old Muslim schoolboy a school in Therwil, Switzerland has been told by a Swiss education authority that he must agree to shake hands with female teachers or face being fined and disciplined. Salhani lost his appeal after refusing to shake hands with a female teacher in April because, he argued, it would have violated his religious beliefs. He, and other students who refuse to shake teachers’ hands, will now be fined up to £4,000 if they fail to comply with the order.

  • Muslims in EuropeMuslim woman in Sweden quits job after being instructed to shake hands with male colleagues

    A 20-year old Muslim woman in Helsingborg, Sweden has quit her job after being told she must shake hands with her male colleagues. She had told her fellow employees that she preferred not to shake hands with her male colleagues, and instead would rather put her hand on her heart and bow as a greeting. One of her male colleagues, however, took offense at her suggestion, complained to the school principal where she was working at the time, and the principal informed her that she must conform to the institution’s “core values” if she wanted to remain working there.

  • African securityAssessing the risk from Africa as Libya loses its chemical weapons

    By Scott Firsing

    Libya’s remaining chemical weapons left over from the Gaddafi regime are now being safely disposed of in a German facility. This eliminates the risk of them falling into the wrong hands. But can these same hands acquire weapons of mass destruction from the rest of Africa? The disposal of Libya’s chemical weapons has lowered the risk of weapons of mass destruction in Africa. But we have seen how far non-state actors are willing to go to either produce or steal such weapons. For example, analysts envision militants known as “suicide infectors” visiting an area with an infectious disease outbreak like Ebola purposely to infect themselves and then using air travel to carry out the attack. Reports from 2009 show forty al-Qaeda linked militants being killed by the plague at a training camp in Algeria. There were claims that they were developing the disease as a weapon. The threat WMD pose cannot be ignored. African countries, with help from bilateral partners and the international community, have broadened their nonproliferation focus. They will need to keep doing so if the goal is effectively to counter this threat.

  • CybersecurityNIST’s regional approach to addressing U.S. cybersecurity challenge

    NIST has awarded grants totaling nearly $1 million for five projects that are taking a community approach to addressing the U.S. shortage of skilled cybersecurity employees. The NIST-led National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a partnership among government, academia, and the private sector, will oversee the grants as part of its mission to support cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development.