Today's news

  • EbolaLiberia quarantines area the size of Wales in an effort to contain Ebola spread

    In an effort to control the spread of Ebola throughout West Africa, Liberia has quarantined areas at the epicenter of the epidemic. Experts say the quarantine is not likely to be effective because of two reasons: people inside and outside the quarantined areas – called “Unified Sectors” – still lack effective medical services, and the growing shortages of food and clean water inside the Unified Sectors will force people from inside those areas to go outside in search of food. The areas – which, combined, are the size of Wales — are too large to be effectively monitored.

  • EbolaEbola poses no risk in U.S.: Experts

    Ebola has infected nearly 2,000 people in West Africa because the disease is spreading in populated areas with poor public health infrastructure, and where health workers might not be taking proper infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves, experts say. These experts note that Ebola can be contracted only from patients who have the symptoms, not those who are infected, and even then infection occurs only when coming into contact with bodily fluids. They say that SARS and the flu are more contagious than Ebola.

  • view counter
  • TerrorismCredibility of informer at the center of California terrorism trial

    The trial of Sohiel Omar Kabir, 36, and Ralph Kenneth Deleon, 25, both accused of planning to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda, continued this week as prosecutors hope to convict the men on five counts of conspiracy. Kabir is accused of persuading Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana, and Arifeen David Gojali to go to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda. Much of the evidence against the defendants comes from an informant named Mohammad Hammad, who was used by the government as an informant in other cases. Civil rights advocates question Hammad’s credibility, saying he is more of an agent-provocateur than an informant.

  • ScanningSecurity flaws found in backscatter X-ray scanners

    A team of researchers has discovered several security vulnerabilities in full-body backscatter X-ray scanners deployed to U.S. airports between 2009 and 2013. Secure 1000 scanners were removed from airports in 2013 due to privacy concerns, and are now being repurposed to jails, courthouses, and other government facilities. “The system’s designers seem to have assumed that attackers would not have access to a Secure 1000 to test and refine their attacks,” said one of the researchers. The researchers, however, were able to purchase a government-surplus machine found on eBay and subject it to laboratory testing.

  • In the trenchesU.S. military seeks to break the “more armor” paradigm for protection

    For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection. The trend of increasingly heavy, less mobile, and more expensive combat platforms has limited soldiers’ ability rapidly to deploy and maneuver in theater and accomplish their missions in varied and evolving threat environments. The U.S. military is now at a point where — considering tactical mobility, strategic mobility, survivability, and cost — innovative and disruptive solutions are necessary to ensure the operational viability of the next generation of armored fighting vehicles.

  • CybersecurityNew framework facilitates use of new Android security modules

    Computer security researchers have developed a modification to the core Android operating system that allows developers and users to plug in new security enhancements. The new Android Security Modules (ASM) framework aims to eliminate the bottleneck that prevents developers and users from taking advantage of new security tools.

  • view counter
  • Nuclear powerTesting the shelf-life of nuclear reactors’ components

    The structural components of advanced reactors such as the sodium fast reactor and the traveling wave nuclear reactor must be able to withstand the extreme levels of radioactivity from the fission reaction itself at temperatures well above 400 Celsius. Unfortunately, standard tests of such components are expensive, require increasingly rare test reactors and test periods that are impractical. Researchers have devised a quick way to test the structural materials used to build nuclear reactors by using high-energy beams of charged particles (ions).

  • EnergyThe power of salt

    By Jennifer Chu

    Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, mechanical engineers say. The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy. In principle, a PRO system would take in river water and seawater on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Through osmosis, water from the less-salty stream would cross the membrane to a pre-pressurized saltier side, creating a flow that can be sent through a turbine to recover power.

  • view counter
  • Israel-Hamas warIsrael, again, tries to kill Muhammad Deif, Hamas military leader

    Israel last night [Middle East time] tried, for the fifth time in fifteen years, to kill Mohammed Deif, the head of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. It is not yet clear whether he was killed in the attack, but the dead bodies of his wife and his small child were pulled. It appears that Israel became aware that Deif, believing that there would be a few days of calm while Israeli and Palestinian delegations were in Cairo to work out the details of a truce, was planning to emerge from his bunker to meet with the commander of Hamas’s rocket force at the home of that commander. Deif’s wife and child were to meet him there as well. Israeli missiles struck to house when it appeared that Deif had arrived, destroying the building. Three bodies were pulled from the rubble — a woman, a small child, and a man in his late 40s or early 50s (Deif was born in 1965).

  • Law enforcementChanges to Pentagon equipment transfers to local police not likely

    Some lawmakers and their constituents are calling for restrictions on the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which transfers excess military equipment to law-enforcement agencies through the Defense Logistics AgencyLaw Enforcement Support Office. Congressional insiders say, however, that little will be done in the short-term.

  • view counter
  • CrimeDrawing lessons from “perfect heists” for national security

    In 2003, the unthinkable happened at Belgium’s Antwerp Diamond Center. Thieves broke into its reputedly impenetrable vault and made off with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds, gold, cash and other valuables. The Antwerp Diamond Center theft and other sophisticated, high-value heists show that motivated criminals can find ways to overcome every obstacle between them and their targets. Can the Energy and Defense departments, responsible for analyzing, designing, and implementing complex systems to protect vital national security assets, learn from security failures in the banking, art, and jewelry worlds?

  • ForensicsBullets database to help match bullets, cartridge cases to specific firearms

    Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are working to improve ballistics matching methods with assistance from the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department Crime Laboratory. Their work together will contribute to a collection of topographic data from thousands of fired bullets and cartridge cases. The collection, which they ultimately plan to issue as an open research database, will improve the scientific basis of forensic techniques used to match bullets and cartridge cases to specific firearms.

  • view counter
  • ResilienceNew Jersey launches distributed energy initiative

    More than two million households lost power in New Jersey during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and water and wastewater treatment plants lacked electricity, forcing millions of gallons of raw sewage to be released into the state’s waterways. State officials concluded that relying exclusively on centralized grids for electrical power distribution would continue to be a risk during disasters such as hurricanes. The state recently announced the launch of the nation’s first Energy Resilience Bank(ERB), which will support the development of distributed energy resources at critical facilities throughout New Jersey.

  • ResilienceCoast Guard, National Guard units in N.J. still dealing with Sandy’s damage

    The USCGC Sailfish, an 87-foot patrol boat, is temporarily based out of Bayonne, New York, unable to return to its berth at Sandy Hook, where the storm caused $50 million in damage to Coast Guard facilities. National Guard facilities around New Jersey sustained more than $35 million in storm damage, and further along the Jersey shore, the National Guard is dealing with over $40 million in damage to Army and Air Force facilities.

  • TerrorismWhat goes on in the mind of a militant extremist?

    By Lazar Stankov

    So far, the ongoing discussions about radicalization of extremists both at home and abroad have tended to emphasize its sociological aspects. These discussions have focused on concepts such as the religion and social environments of individuals. Psychological accounts of extremist activity are infrequent, and it is often forgotten that only a few of those who hold strong ideological, political, and religious views get involved in violent acts. Personal dispositions, feelings and beliefs may play a decisive role in explaining why people become radicalized. Psychological research into radicalization may thus complement political science and religious studies in countering terrorism in Western society. Monitoring the strength of militant extremist mindset endorsements in different communities could be helpful. It may be useful to establish regular polling practices that would gauge the extent of radicalization over time and in reaction to terrorist-related political acts at home and globally.

  • Radiation risksNeumedicines receives $14m for acute radiation exposure countermeasures

    Neumedicines receives $14 million from BARDA to support advanced development of HemaMax, including advanced GMP manufacturing activities and a Phase 2 clinical safety study in 200 healthy human volunteers. The company says its efficacy studies have shown that a single, low-dose, subcutaneous injection of HemaMax at twenty-four hours after exposure to lethal radiation increases survival by an average of more than 2-fold without any supportive care or antibiotics.

  • Law enforcementLawmakers reconsider transfer of military gear to local police

    Federal officials are considering placing restrictions on the 1990 Department of Defense Excess Property (1033) Program which authorized the Pentagon to give surplus military equipment to local law enforcement units to fight the war on drugs. The program was later explained as also heling in the fight against terrorism. Though violent crime nationwide is at its lowest levels in decades, the transfers of military equipment to police forces have surged.

  • TerrorismCIA used Anwar al-Awlaki’s desire for a third wife to track and kill him

    Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born jihadist preacher and one of the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP), grew impatient with his two wives, and wanted to a marry a third one. A Danish Islamist who was close to Awlaki – but who was, in fact, a CIA agent – agreed to help Awlaki find a third wife, and found a Croatian woman who converted to Islam, and who was attracted to Awlaki from pictures she saw. The woman, and the expensive gifts the Danish agent bought the couple, helped the CIA track the elusive terrorist, and he was killed on 30 September 2011 with Hellfire missiles launched at his convoy from two CIA Predator drones operating in Yemen.

  • TerrorismJihadist’s wife guilty of financially supporting terrorism

    Nawal Msaad, a student at London Metropolitan Universitywho was accused of trying to smuggle 20,000 Euros in her underwear to support Aine Davis, a British Jihadist in Syria, has been cleared of conspiring to fund terrorism. Her friend, Amal El-Wahabi, who is Davis’s wife, has become the first Briton to be found guilty of financially supporting terrorism in Syria under the Terrorism Act. El-Wahabi will face sentencing on 12 September 2014, with a maximum of fourteen years in prison.

  • GunsSmart-gun design met with suspicion by gun rights advocates

    Ernst Mauch, a mainstay of the weapons industry and a long-term gunmaker at Heckler & Koch, has recently upset gun rights advocates, who used to praise his work, with his new computer-assisted smart gun design. The new gun incorporates twenty-first century computing and intelligence features to eliminate the potential for danger in the wrong hands: it will only operate if the owner is wearing a special wrist watch.

  • BiometricsPhoto-ID security checks flawed: Study

    Passport issuing officers are no better at identifying whether someone is holding a fake passport photo than the average person, new research has revealed. A pioneering study of Australian passport office staff revealed a 15 percent error rate in matching the person to the passport photo they were displaying. In real life this degree of inaccuracy would correspond to the admittance of several thousand travelers bearing fake passports.

  • ImmigrationChild in immigrant detention facility discovered to be U.S. citizen

    In Tuscon, Arizona an 11-year-old boy — just one of the hundreds of children that have been detained at a detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico — was released because he was discovered by his attorney to be a U.S. citizen. The case has highlighted the hazards and potential mistakes that can befall DHS and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials when they choose to “fast-track” immigration cases.