• Perspective: California powerPG&E Warns of Ten Years of Power Shut-Offs. California Officials Don’t Like It

    California residents face up to 10 years of widespread, precautionary forced power shut-offs until Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., the bankrupt utility giant, will be able to prevent its power transmission lines from sparking fires, the company’s top official said. Howard Blume writes for the Los Angeles Times that the sobering projection came from company Chief Executive William D. Johnson at an emergency meeting Friday of the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.

  • Perspective: Post-disaster reconstructionBans on Rebuilding in Disaster-Prone Areas Ignore Homeowners Preferences – Raising Costs Works Better

    As California’s wildfire season intensifies, a growing number of residents in the state want to ban people from building in areas at greatest risk. That’s because taxpayers bear the burden of protecting homes in dangerous areas when fire breaks out – and they often help foot the bill when it’s time to rebuild. A recent assessment showed that 1 in 4 Californians live in an area at “high risk” of wildfire. And people tend to want to rebuild in the same spot that was hit by a disaster. Alexander Smith writes that as a behavioral economist who studies the psychology of decision-making, he tries to understand people’s motivations before taking a position in a policy debate. He believes there’s a better way for policymakers to achieve the same goal of getting people to avoid building in disaster-prone areas without forcing people from their homes.

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  • Perspective: Syria withdrawalIndecision in Washington Compounded the Kurds' Dilemma

    The American military presence in northeast Syria was always an anomaly, unlikely to be sustained indefinitely. The manner of its termination has nevertheless proven inept and unnecessarily costly. If the military advantages of partnering with the YPG were clear, it was equally clear that none of their neighbors would indefinitely tolerate an independent Kurdish state. Turkey was most agitated by this scenario given the Syrian Kurds’ links to the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a designated terrorist group that has waged a low-grade insurgency against the state for decades. In the end it appears the Tump administration proved unable to choose among its competing interests in Syria, James Dobbins and Jeffrey Martini write. “Statesmanship requires the ability to choose between sometimes unpalatable alternatives. Statecraft requires a rigorous process of refining and a timely means of deliberating on those alternatives. These qualities have been notably lacking in charting the administration’s Syria end game thereby compounding the unavoidable costs of withdrawal with charges of betrayal and a retreat under fire.”

  • Perspective: NukesGetting the Nukes Out of Turkey: A How-To Guide

    Almost as soon as Turkish troops began their invasion of Syria, old debates resurfaced about whether or not the United States should withdraw the roughly 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey also began resurfacing. Unlike in years prior, however, this time such a move may actually be in the offing. Pulling the nuclear weapons out of Turkey may seem like a bold step, but the United States has been reducing the number of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and consolidating the remaining ones at ever fewer bases since the end of the Cold War.

  • Perspective: Into AfricaRussian Theater: How to Respond to Moscow’s Return to the African Stage

    Russia is preparing to launch its first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on Oct. 24. The Russia-Africa Summit is the latest in a series of maneuvers by the Kremlin to present an image of a resurgent Russia in Africa. Judd Devermont writes that Russia’s return, even while at times ham-fisted and amateurish, does pose a threat to U.S. interests. The United States should resist the temptation to elevate Russia’s standing in Africa: It should focus on countering Moscow’s expansion and closing down its malign activities in Africa, instead of wasting time and energy framing Russia’s return as part of ‘great power competition.’”

  • Perspective: EncryptionWill Canada Weaken Encryption with Backdoors?

    Imagine you wake up one morning and discover that the federal government is requiring everyone to keep their back doors unlocked. First responders need access your house in an emergency, they say, and locked doors are a significant barrier to urgent care. For the good of the nation, public health concerns outweigh the risk to your privacy and security. Sounds crazy, right? Byron Holland writes that, unfortunately, a number of governments are considering a policy just like this for the internet, and there’s growing concern that the Canadian government could soon follow suit.

  • Perspective: Truth decayHow Fact-Checking Can Win the Fight Against Misinformation

    According to fact-checkers at the Washington Post, President Donald Trump has made more than 13,000 false or misleading claims since his inauguration. It is no wonder some people doubt that the fact-checking of politicians’ claims is an answer to the problems of this misinformation age. Peter Cunliffe-Jones , Laura Zommer, Noko Makgato, and Will Moy write that “As the leaders or founders of fact-checking organizations in Africa, Latin America, and Europe, we know that our work can play a powerful role in countering the effects of misinformation and restoring faith in reliable sources.” They add: “While we shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the threat posed by misinformation and declining trust, or the complexity of their causes, the problem is not nearly as intractable as some seem to believe. By addressing not only the symptoms of misinformation and mistrust, but also the systemic problems that underlie them, fact-checking organizations, media, government, and business can resist these worrisome trends.”

  • Perspective: ExtremismIf Germany Can’t Stop the Rise of White Nationalism, How Can Canada?

    Between 2017 and 2018, anti-Semitic and xenophobic crimes both rose nearly 20 percent in Germany. In June, following the assassination by a neo-Nazi of Walter Lübcke, a conservative politician who supported Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies, the BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, busted Nordkreuz, an extremist organization which compiled a kill list of 25,000 liberal politicians considered “pro-refugee” while also acquiring weapons, 200 body bags, and quicklime, which prevents the rotting that makes corpses smell. The BfV says that it is now tracking 24,100 known right-wing extremists in the country, of which 12,700 have been classified as violent. “That these developments are happening in Germany, a country known for an unflinching view of its own horrific past, might be considered surprising,” Sadiya Ansari writes. “And if Germany is struggling to contain this [extremists’] threat, what does that mean for countries that haven’t been as vigilant?”

  • Perspective: Epidemics“Working in Silos Doesn’t Work for Outbreak Response”: Localizing Social Science Response Efforts in West Africa

    Despite the deployment of new tools, such as vaccines and experimental treatments, to fight the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the contextual complexity has made it extremely challenging for local and international response partners to implement standard Ebola containment strategies. These challenges have contributed both to the growth and spread of the outbreak, and to a very dangerous and dynamic environment for those working in the response. Various international organization supporting the fight against the epidemic say they are committed to design future outbreak response which would be more sensitive to the needs and perspectives of local communities. To support this, social science has been identified as a necessary outbreak ‘discipline’ alongside epidemiology, clinical medicine, microbiology, and public health to help ensure that outbreak response is designed in locally appropriate ways.

  • Perspective: UFOsMysterious Case of the Vanishing UFOs

    All over the rest of the world UFOs are in sharp decline, and may soon disappear altogether. People are simply not spotting unidentified spacecraft like they used to. Alien abductions are at an all-time low. UFO-spotting organizations are closing down. Since 2014 alien sightings have halved. The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, and dropping. “Where have all the UFOs gone?” Ben Macintyre asks in The Times, noting that “The recent drastic worldwide decline of unexplained phenomena is one of the odder unexplained phenomena of modern times.”

  • Man-made epidemicsThe Risk of Lab-Created Pandemic Pathogens

    In 2017, considerable new data became available which calls for a new estimation of the risk of release into the community of lab-created potential pandemic pathogens. In a new study, one expert writes that these are “the most worrisome potential pandemic pathogens because a highly transmissible strain released from a lab into the community could seed a pandemic with substantial worldwide fatalities.”

  • China syndromeChina’s Global Reach: Surveillance and Censorship Beyond the Great Firewall

    By Danny O'Brien

    Those outside the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are accustomed to thinking of the Internet censorship practices of the Chinese state as primarily domestic, enacted through the so-called “Great Firewall”—a system of surveillance and blocking technology that prevents Chinese citizens from viewing websites outside the country. But the ongoing Hong Kong protests, and mainland China’s pervasive attempts to disrupt and discredit the movement globally, have highlighted that China is not above trying to extend its reach beyond the Great Firewall, and beyond its own borders. In attempting to silence protests that lie outside the Firewall, in full view of the rest of the world, China is showing its hand, and revealing the tools it can use to silence dissent or criticism worldwide.

  • RadicalizationFrom Hateful Words to Real Violence

    The Gilroy Garlic Festival. The Poway Chabad synagogue. The Charleston Emanuel church. The El Paso Walmart. One common denominator in these mass shootings and countless others? A perpetrator whose interactions in online white supremacist networks played a part in inciting, energizing, and detonating racial hatred into real violence, says UNLV sociologist Simon Gottschalk. Gottschalk has studied how interacting in online white supremacist networks can convert hateful words into real violence.

  • CryptographyCryptography without Using Secret Keys

    Most security applications, for instance access to buildings or digital signatures, use cryptographic keys that must at all costs be kept secret. That also is the weak link: who will guarantee that the key doesn’t get stolen or hacked? Researchers, using a physical unclonable key (PUK) and the quantum properties of light, researchers present a new type of data security that does away with secret keys.

  • Truth decayHow Partisan Hostility Leads People to Believe Falsehoods

    Researchers now have a better idea of why people who rely on partisan news outlets are more likely to believe falsehoods about political opponents. And no, it isn’t because these consumers live in media “bubbles” where they aren’t exposed to the truth. Instead, it has to do with how partisan media promote hostility against their rivals.

  • HurricanesMonitoring Hurricanes: Better Life-Saving, Property-Preserving Decisions

    When a natural disaster strikes, first responders step in to reduce harm and save lives. They risk their lives in highly unpredictable environments — often without clear knowledge of the dangers they are facing or where they are needed most. Now, imagine if responders could make use of cutting-edge disaster forecasting models in conjunction with real-time data to predict a disaster’s impact and then use that information to make better-informed decisions. Fewer lives would be lost and more people would receive the help they need.

  • Climate threatsSeptember 2019 Tied as Hottest on Record for Planet

    The globe continued to simmer in exceptional warmth, as September 2019  tied with 2015 as the hottest September in NOAA’s 140-year temperature record. The month also capped off another warm year so far, with the globe experiencing its second-warmest January through September (YTD) ever recorded. Arctic sea ice coverage shrank to third-lowest for September.

  • PerspectiveThe Intelligence Fallout from Trump’s Withdrawal in Syria

    The chaotic nature of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria—following an impulsive, snap decision by President Donald Trump during a phone call with the Turkish president earlier this month—is unnerving those who have been involved in all levels of the fight against ISIS. This is because “forever war” in Iraq and Syria was built around the work done by local U.S. allies. The fight against ISIS was America’s, but it was also being fought by Syrians, Kurds, and Iraqis—a U.S. strategy known as “by, with and through.” These partnerships have proved invaluable to the war against ISIS – but at the same time, they have also opened a small hole in the secrecy which typically shrouds the U.S. special operations community—by giving the local partners who work with those forces a rare and up-close view of who they are and how they do their jobs. Experts worry that any potential deal between the Kurds and Assad will include “not just speaking with Syrian intelligence officers but Russians and Iranians,” one expert said. “It’s going to turn out that all of a sudden the ways that elite American counterterrorism forces operate are known to the opposition.” Another expert said: “None of these issues were thought through or prepared, no consequences considered. It’s a disaster.”

  • PerspectiveA Cheaper Nuclear Sponge

    “With today’s technology, land-based [ballistic] missiles are an embarrassment,” the late, great strategist Thomas Schelling wrote in 1987. Steve Fetter and Kingston Reif write that so long as U.S. adversaries possess nuclear weapons, we believe the United States should maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter nuclear attacks against itself and its allies. But the Trump administration’s approach to sustaining and upgrading the arsenal is unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe. Nowhere is this more evident than with respect to its plan to build a new ICBM.

  • PerspectiveBioweapon Threat Didn’t End in Cold War, Experts Warn House

    Picking apart flaws in the government’s system of monitoring for bioweapons, a panel of scientists warned House lawmakers Thursday that America is grossly unprepared for a bioterrorist attack. Asha George, executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, noted that U.S. funding for bioweapons protection has been on the decline since the end of the Cold War — this in spite of the relative ease by which terrorist groups can weaponize biological agents or, even more easily, get their hands on materials that have already been weaponized by the former Soviet Union.

  • PerspectiveWhy We Must Ban Facial Recognition Software Now

    Facial recognition technology, once a darling of Silicon Valley with applications for policing, spying and authenticating identities, is suddenly under fire. Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have strongly criticized the technology. San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Somerville, Mass., have barred all of their government agencies, including the police, from using it. And several Democratic candidates for president have raised deep concerns about it, with one, Senator Bernie Sanders, calling for an outright ban for policing.

  • Our picksCyber Defensive to Cyber Offensive | Calif.’s Tremor Warnings | Surviving Being Shot in NYC, and more

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    ·  From Defensive to Offensive: The U.K. Boosts Its Cyber Units

    ·  The United States Made Information Free and Foreign Manipulation Possible