Today's news

  • CounterterrorismU.K. government's sweeping new counterterrorism bill unveiled today

    The U.K. government unveils today (Wednesday) sweeping new measures to combat extremism and terrorism, and tackle radicalization, in the United Kingdom. Among other measures, the new counterterrorism bill will require schools and universities to exclude radical speakers from their campuses, and give the home secretary the powers to deny entry (or re-entry) to the United Kingdom to U.K. British citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activity abroad. These citizens’ travel documents will be cancelled and their names placed on no-fly lists for up to two years. Home Secretary Theresa May said: “We are engaged in a struggle that is fought on many fronts and in many forms. It is a struggle that will go on for many years. And the threat we face right now is perhaps greater than it ever has been. We must have the powers we need to defend ourselves.”

  • Terrorism insuranceImpasse in Congress over terrorism insurance (TRIA) renewal

    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA) is expected to expire by 31 December unless Congress renews the legislation or places a temporary extension. The legislation, initially established in November 2002 as a federal backstop to protect insurers in the event an act of terrorism results in losses above $100 million, has been extended and reauthorized. The insurance industry supports the reauthorization approved by the Senate, and opposes a short-term extension. Some insurance companies have noted on their contracts that policyholders could lose terrorism coverage if TRIA is not renewed.

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  • Seismic early warningCalifornia’s early-warning ShakeAlert system to be rolled out next year

    Officials in California expect the state’s ShakeAlertsystem to be available to some schools, fire stations, and more private companies early next year. Until now, only earthquake researchers, some government agencies, and a few private firms have received alerts from the statewide earthquake early warning system. The 2015 expansion will occur as long as Congress approves a $5 million funding request that has passed committees in both the Senate and House. A full vote on the budget was delayed until after the midterm elections.

  • BridgesResilience of California’s transportation infrastructure questioned

    A significant number of bridges and elevated roadways lie above or close to active fault lines, and Californians often wonder how the state’s towering interchanges and freeway network would perform during a major earthquake.The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has spent over $13 billion in the last forty years to reinforce vulnerable bridges and interchanges. Caltrans officials note that during a major earthquake, freeways are likely to sustain significant damage, but engineers feel confident that freeways will not collapse.

  • BridgesHere’s how to fix America’s crumbling bridges

    By Henry Petroski

    There are about 600,000 bridges in the United States, and about one in four is classified as functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. This doesn’t mean they’re in danger of imminent collapse; they may be simply too narrow or built for lighter traffic than today’s standards. Bridges that can’t support heavy trucks have weight restrictions posted. There are plenty of repairs that need to be done. With government funding for infrastructure projects being so tight, an alternative has arisen in what are called public-private partnerships, often abbreviated PPP or P3. In this arrangement, private investors assume the responsibility for financing and building a bridge or highway, and the investors are granted the right to collect tolls for what may be decades. The investors naturally believe they will realize a good return on their investment, even after they pay the public partner a sizable sum upfront for the concession. This upfront payment can be in the billions of dollars, which can be very tempting for a state or municipality struggling to balance its budget.

  • CybersecurityU.S. Army creates a Cyber branch

    Soldiers who want to defend the nation in cyberspace, as part of the U.S. Army’s newest and most technologically advanced career field, now have an Army branch to join that will take its place alongside infantry, artillery, and the other Army combat arms branches. Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno approved the creation of the Cyber branch in September. “The establishment of a Cyber Branch shows how important and critical the cyber mission is to our Army, and allows us to focus innovative recruiting, retention, leader development, and talent management needed to produce world-class cyberspace professionals,” said Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, the commanding general of Army Cyber Command.

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  • CybersecurityInternet security market to reach $42.8 billion globally by 2020

    According to a new report by Allied Market Research, the global Internet security market is expected to reach $42.8 billion by 2020, registering a CAGR of 8.1 percent during 2014-2020. The market, driven by demand for software solutions, would experience a shift toward the adoption of cloud-based systems. About 80 percent of the top companies today identify with cloud-based security services which have become a prominent market trend.

  • CybersecurityA malware more sophisticated than Stuxnet discovered

    Security experts at Symantechave discovered the world’s most sophisticated computer malware, Regin. Thought to have been created by a Western intelligence agency, and in many respects more advanced than Stuxnet — which was developed by the U.S. and Israeli government in 2010 to hack the Iranian nuclear program — Regin has targeted Russian, Saudi Arabian, Mexican, Irish, and Iranian Internet service providers and telecoms companies. “Nothing else comes close to this … nothing else we look at compares,” said one security expert.

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  • CybersecurityIran may resume cyberattacks on U.S. if nuclear deal is not reached

    A failure for the United States to reach a nuclear deal with Iran could result in more cyberattacks against U.S. companies, House Intelligence Committeechairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) said. Cyberattacks by Tehran declined dramatically after the United States, other permanent members of the Security Council, and Germany agreed to an interim nuclear deal with Iran in 2013, but should the parties fail to reach a permanent nuclear deal by the newly set March 2015 and July 2015 deadlines, financial firms, oil and gas companies, and water filtration systems could be targets of malware from Iran’s cyber army.

  • CybersecurityCyber experts divided over the scope of damage of a cyberattack on U.S.

    Citing the risks of lack of preparation against future cyberattacks and the absence of security infrastructure, a new report urges across the board updates in the domain of cybersecurity. Most of the experts interviewed for the report pointed to the Stuxnet malware, which damaged Iranian nuclear-enrichment centrifuges and other nuclear-related machinery in 2010, as an example of the sort of future attacks that could disable and destroy vital infrastructure such as power grids, air-traffic controls, and banking institutions.

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  • ImmigrationObama’s executive action may divert resources from handling legal immigrants

    Critics of President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration are worried that shifting immigration resources from work done on behalf of legal immigrants to applications filed by those in the country illegally would discourage future immigrants from entering the United States legally.A former federal immigration official compares the new immigration effort to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA), which drew more than 600,000 applications from Dreamers.One of the effects of DACA was an increase in the wait time for green cards for immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens from five months to fifteen months, which critics blame on personnel being diverted to work on the DACA program.

  • EpidemicsPublic health officials work to ensure that the lessons of Ebola are not forgotten

    Hospitals find it difficult to remain fully prepared for disease outbreaks because they rarely occur and preparation and frequent training are expensive. Public health professionals and infectious disease experts are working to ensure that lessons learned and protocols put in place in response to the Ebola outbreak will be used to prevent and respond to future virus and disease outbreaks.

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  • Nuclear weaponsScientist develops uncrackable security code for nuclear weapons

    Nuclear weapons exist, so control of nuclear weapons is essential. Intrinsic Use Control (IUC) is a concept which is capable of providing improved quantifiable safety and use control within a nuclear weapon. As a basic concept, use control is best accomplished in the weapon itself rather than depending on administrative controls, fences, and guards. Using established technology, IUC uses passive use control to resist any attacks or unauthorized use of a weapon at either the component or the fully assembled levels.

  • DetectionDogs trained on pseudo-explosives could not reliably identify genuine explosives

    When it comes to teaching dogs how to sniff out explosives, there is nothing quite like the real thing to make sure they are trained right. This is the message from researchers after finding that dogs which are trained with so-called “pseudo-explosives” could not reliably sniff out real explosives (and vice versa).

  • In the trenchesNavy considering allowing sailors temporary leave before returning to active duty

    The U.S. Navy is considering allowing sailors to take temporary leave and return to active duty after earning degrees or working in the private sector. The plan would save the Navy money spent on training new sailors, while retaining experienced personnel for the long term.

  • Infrastructure protectionGlobal warming skeptics unmoved by extreme weather

    What will it take to convince skeptics of global warming that the phenomenon is real? Surely, many scientists believe, enough droughts, floods, and heat waves will begin to change minds. A new study throws cold water on that theory. Winter 2012 was the fourth warmest winter in the United States dating back to at least 1895. Researchers found, however, that when it came to attributing the abnormally warm weather to global warming, respondents largely held fast to their existing beliefs and were not influenced by actual temperatures. This study and past research shows that political party identification plays a significant role in determining global warming beliefs. People who identify as Republican tend to doubt the existence of global warming, while Democrats generally believe in it.

  • ImmigrationTech industry disappointed with lack of details on visas for skilled foreigners

    Leaders of the U.S. tech industry hoped President Barack Obama’s recent immigration speech would unveil specifics on how his executive action on immigration would affect the number of highly skilled foreigners who would be granted American work visas. Instead, Obama just mentioned that he would “make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.”Since Obama did not announce specific plans for the H-1B visa program, tech industry leaders will now push for more congressional support – even though the House did not bring to a vote a bi-partisan Senate bill which would have increased visas for skilled workers to at least 115,000.

  • ImmigrationNew deportation approach targets convicted criminals, threats to national security

    Last Thursday, President Barack Obama announced the end of Secure Communitiesas part of his immigration reform strategy. The program was designed to identify deportable undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes, by allowing federal immigration agents to access fingerprint records collected at local jails. In many cases, agents requested local law enforcement officials to hold inmates beyond their jail terms until they could be transferred to federal custody. Obama has announced a new initiative — the Priority Enforcement Program— to target only undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of certain serious crimes or who pose danger to national security.

  • ISISU.S. anti-ISIS campaign hindered by lack of reliable intelligence sources on the ground

    U.S.-led airstrikes on the Islamic State (ISIS) and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria are hindered by a lack of credible intelligence sources on the ground, according to senior intelligence officials. “It’s a black hole,” one U.S. official saidaboutthe challenge of tracking terrorists and assessing casualties in a war zone limited to airstrikes. “We just don’t have the assets on the ground — that would have been one advantage of arming the Syrian moderates two years ago,” another expert said. “Syria is such a fluid environment, it would be very difficult to develop assets now.”

  • CBPJames F. Tomscheck forced disabled veteran from CBP IA – Pt. 2

    By Robert Lee Maril

    While the details and implications of President Barack Obama’s immigration reforms continue to be closely scrutinized, an unprecedented scandal unfolds within the federal agency charged with providing security and control at our Mexican border. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), a law enforcement agency of 65,000 employees, is potentially facing alarming charges fostered by its former assistant director of Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs (CBP IA), James F. Tomscheck. Tomscheck, who turned federal whistleblower last summer, lambasted his superiors with multiple accusations. Allegations, however, have arisen against Tomscheck that he knowingly discriminated against a disabled military veteran within CBP IA, then fired him.

  • Offensive cyber operationsPentagon mulls “byte for a byte” cyber retaliatory operations

    Much has been made of the phrase “an eye for an eye” throughout history, and it is beginning to appear that the oft-used motto will extend to the new fields of cyber warfare as well.This “approach is something our adversaries will readily understand,” one analyst writes. “If they escalate, we escalate. They know they will lose because we have far more cyber resources to draw on than they have, and we can cause real harm if they mess with us.”

  • DetectionNew terahertz device could strengthen security

    We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. Even after all the effort, we still wonder whether these procedures are making us any safer. Now a new type of security detection that uses terahertz radiation is looking to prove its promise. Able to detect explosives, chemical agents, and dangerous biological substances from safe distances, devices using terahertz waves could make public spaces more secure than ever.