• Perspective: Defense of the homelandThe Senate Examines Threats to the Homeland

    On Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the evolving threats facing the United States. In their written and opening remarks, the witnesses outlined a dizzyingly broad array of threats—from domestic and international terrorism to transnational organized crime, cyber and economic espionage, election interference, data insecurity, and potential chemical and biological attacks on the homeland. As the hearing wore on, senators’ questions and witness testimony narrowed in scope, focusing primarily on three aspects of America’s security challenges: how to optimize information sharing to combat domestic terrorism; how to counter Chinese cyber and counterintelligence operations; and how to address the growing problems posed by new technologies, namely, ransomware, cryptocurrency and unmanned aerial systems (UASs).

  • Perspective: DamsDams Across the U.S. Pose Potential Risk

    A more than two-year investigation by the Associated Press has found scores of dams around the United States in various states of disrepair, located in areas where a breach might place thousands in danger. These aging dams loom over homes, businesses, highways, or entire communities which could face life-threatening floods if the dams don’t hold. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates it would take more than $70 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s more than 90,000 dams. But unlike much other infrastructure, most U.S. dams are privately owned. That makes it difficult for regulators to require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to pay the steep costs.

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  • Perspective: Truth decayThe Trolls Are Everywhere. Now What Are We Supposed to Do?

    Forget the decline of gatekeepers. Imagine a world bereft of gates and uncrossable lines, with no discernible rules. Andrew Marantz’s just published book, Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, offers a detailed and disturbing study of how the social media platforms, rolled out over the last decade by a group of nerdy but naïve Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, have been hijacked by “edge lords” — another name for a collection of nihilists, right-wing nationalists, conspiracy purveyors, white supremacists, and more, whose goal is to downgrade the discourse in a way that would soon corrode the entire system. “The ranking algorithms on social media laid out clear incentives: provoke as many activating emotions as possible; lie, spin, dog-whistle; drop red pill after red pill; step up to the line repeatedly, in creative new ways,” Marantz writes. Public discourse is being replaced by the dance of discord and enragement and noxiousness.

  • Perspective: DisinformationDisinformation Agents Are Targeting Veterans in Run-Up to 2020 Election

    Disinformation campaigns are targeting U.S. veterans through social media, seeking to tap the group’s influential status in their communities and high voting turnout in order to influence elections and fuel discord. Katerina Patin writes that veterans present an ideal target for foreign actors. In addition to their social status and voting rate, veterans are also more likely to run for office and more likely to work in government than any other demographic.

  • Perspective: DisinformationOnline Disinformation and Political Discourse: Applying a Human Rights Framework

    The framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) saw human rights as a fundamental safeguard for all individuals against the power of authority. Although some digital platforms now have an impact on more people’s lives than does any one state authority, the international community has been slow to measure and hold to account these platforms’ activities by reference to human rights law. Kate Jones writes that “Although international human rights law does not impose binding obligations on digital platforms, it offers a normative structure of appropriate standards by which digital platforms should be held to account. Because of the impact that social media can have, a failure to hold digital platforms to human rights standards is a failure to provide individuals with the safeguards against the power of authority that human rights law was created to provide.”

  • Perspective: WildfiresA Year after Paradise Fire, California Lawmakers Hope to Keep History from Repeating

    Last year’s Camp Fire in California offered a scenario officials hadn’t planned for: thousands of residents fleeing at the same time from a town overcome by wildfire — and with few ways to get out. Many others perished in their cars, killed in the blaze that ultimately took 85 lives. Taryn Luna writes that a dire need for better evacuation routes was just one hard lesson of the Camp fire, a tragedy that prompted California’s elected officials to try to prevent history from repeating itself.

  • Perspective: The Russia connectionRussia Positioning Itself in Libya to Unleash Migrant Crisis into Europe

    Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested to the West last month that the widening chaos in Libya after almost a decade of war should have been obvious: “A flow of migrants went through Libya to Europe,” he said in an interview, recalling the displacement of refugees that has reached crisis levels in recent years. “They have what they were warned about.” This week, the New York Times documented the deployment into Libya of Russian mercenaries. “The Russian leader’s warning about Libya, many analysts believe, reflects an ambition to intervene in the conflict at least in part to control refugee flows into Europe, indicating a broad understanding of the disruptive power that the movement of immigrants has had on the Western world,” Paul Shinkman writes.

  • Perspective: China syndromeWe’re Underestimating China’s Impact on Governance in Latin America: Three Persistent Myths

    China’s growing engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in recent years has captured the attention of policymakers, business leaders and foreign policy observers across the region. Jessica Ludwig writes that much of this discussion has focused on the economic dimensions of the relationship. “But largely absent from the conversation has been a serious, dedicated look at the normative impact of relations with Beijing on governance—and, in particular, on whether closer relationships with China’s party-state authorities will affect prospects for democracy in a region that has—at least theoretically—adopted a consensus around democratic values,” Ludwig writes. “Without a firm, well-rounded foundation of knowledge about China and the priorities of its political leadership, LAC countries are starting from a significantly disadvantaged position when negotiating the terms of the relationship.”

  • Perspective: The TroublesWhy a 1972 Northern Ireland Murder Matters So Much to Historians

    In a recent decision, a court in Northern Ireland ruled that evidence from an oral history project could not be considered in a 1972 murder case, clearing 82-year-old Ivor Bell of soliciting the killing of Jean McConville. Evidence from the Belfast Project, an oral history of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, indicated Bell and other members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) kidnapped and murdered McConville because they incorrectly believed she had provided information to the British Army about IRA activity in Belfast. This evidence played an important role in Bell’s indictment and trial in the McConville case. This ordeal strained the relationship between legal justice and historical truth, Donald M. Beaudette and Laura Weinstein write. “Though in court, lawyers, judges and juries assess the guilt of alleged offenders according to well-honed rules of evidence and interpretations of the law, assessing historical truth is more complex,” they write. They argue that scholars “can and must write and speak more broadly about how historical interpretation works, so citizens are better equipped to understand that the dominant interpretation of history is not the only one, nor is it necessarily the correct one.”

  • Perspective: Climate emergencyHow Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong

    Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios. Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

  • School shootingsMost School Shootings May Be Predicted, Prevented: Secret Service

    Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Columbine—these are but a few of the school shootings in which many lives were lost. Could these shootings have been predicted – and prevented? Most students who carried out deadly school shootings first displayed threatening or suspicious behavior that went unreported, according to an analysis released Thursday by the U.S. Secret Service.

  • Foreign interferenceU.S. Security Leaders Warn About Russian, Iranian Interference in 2020 Polls

    Top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have joined together to warn Americans about attempts by Russia, Iran, and other foreign “adversaries” to interfere with next year’s presidential election. “Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment, and affect government policies,” the leaders of the Trump’s administration on security matters said in a joint statement released on 5 November. “Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” they added.

  • Foreign interferenceAre Journalists Ready for Foreign Interference in 2020?

    By Bradley Hanlon

    Last month, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released volume two of its investigation into Russian interference, which details an extensive campaign that aims to sow division and undermine American democracy via social media. One of Russia’s key strategies is to target journalists. As the report describes, “Information warfare, at its core, is a struggle over information and truth. A free and open press — a defining attribute of democratic society — is a principal strategic target for Russian disinformation.” By targeting journalists and news outlets in democratic countries, authoritarians weaken a key pillar of democratic societies.

  • IranWest Has No Response to Iran’s Increasing Dominance of the Middle East

    A new, detailed study says that over the past forty years Iran has built a network of nonstate alliances which has allowed it to turn the balance of “effective” power in the region “in its favor.” In a report released today (7 November), the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says the United States and its regional allies retain superiority in conventional forces over Iran, but that Iran has been able to counter both the U.S. military superiority and the ever-more-severe economic sanctions imposed on Iran by building “networks of influence” with proxies which allow Tehran to have a major influence over the affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

  • BioterrorismSalad Bars and Water Systems Are Easy Targets for Bioterrorists – and America’s Monitoring System Is Woefully Inadequate

    By Ana Santos Rutschman

    I teach food and drug law at Saint Louis University’s Center for Health Law Studies. While monitoring pathogens likely to pose severe threats to public health, my colleagues and I spend a lot of time studying viruses and bacteria that are very hard to obtain, like anthrax or the plague. One less-known facet of bioterrorism, however, is that simpler pathogens like salmonella, a bacterium found in many types of food, can also be used to deliberately harm people. In fact, the largest bioterrorism attack in American history started at the salad bars of a handful of restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Grid resilienceEnhancing the Reliability, Resilience of the U.S. Power Grid

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers will lead two new projects and support seven more to enhance the reliability and resilience of the nation’s power grid as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2019 Grid Modernization Lab Call. DOE announced funding of approximately $80 million over three years to fund 23 projects across the country.

  • Water securityPlants Demand More Water as Climate Warms, Leaving Less for People

    As climate changes, plants in North America, much of Eurasia, and parts of central and South America will consume more water than they do now, leading to less water for people, according to a new study. The research suggests a drier future despite anticipated increases in precipitation in populous parts of the United States and Europe that already face water stresses.

  • ArgumentsAre Facebook and Google State Actors?

    In 1924, concerned about monopolization in the radio industry, the secretary of commerce said something prescient: “It cannot be thought that any single person or group shall ever have the right to determine what communication may be made to the American people. … We cannot allow any single person or group to place themselves in a position where they can censor the material which shall be broadcasted to the public.” Jed Rubenfeld writes that what Secretary Herbert Hoover warned against has now come to pass:

  • PerspectiveInside the Microsoft Team Tracking the World’s Most Dangerous Hackers

    When the Pentagon recently awarded Microsoft a $10 billion contract to transform and host the U.S. military’s cloud computing systems, the mountain of money came with an implicit challenge: Can Microsoft keep the Pentagon’s systems secure against some of the most well-resourced, persistent, and sophisticated hackers on earth?

  • PerspectiveOfficials Just Had Their Last Chance to Road Test Elections Before 2020

    From a security perspective, Tuesday’s odd-year election went off without a hitch: Officials didn’t spot any major disruptions from hacking or disinformation campaigns. But Joseph Marks writes that the fight to protect the 2020 contest is only ramping up. And officials were quick to warn that it will be a far juicier target for foreign actors.

  • Our picksDrug War Rules No Longer Apply | Worst Cyberattack in U.S. History | Saudi Twitter Spying, and more

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    ·  A Border Guard Shot and Killed a Mexican Boy. The Supreme Court Will Decide If He Gets Off Scot-Free.

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  • Iran’s nukesIran Begins Uranium Enrichment at Fordow, Says U.S. to Blame

    Iran says it has begun enriching uranium at its Fordow underground nuclear facility, further defying terms of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Tehran has gradually reduced some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in May 2018. Meanwhile, Washington has reimposed and expanded punishing sanctions as part of a stated campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.