• VisasState Department tightens visa screening

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has instructed U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and tighten screening for visa applicants in those groups, diplomatic cables obtained by Reuters show. Tillerson has also ordered a “mandatory social media check” for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by Islamic State, in what two former U.S. officials said would be a broad, labor-intensive expansion of such screening.

  • 9/11 & Saudi ArabiaJudge puts 9/11 victims’ suit against Saudi Arabia on a faster track

    Last year Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), opening the door for families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and insurance companies to take Saudi Arabia to court for the role Saudi government officials may have played in the attack. The Manhattan federal courts will next year issue rulings which will indicate whether JASTA was a symbolic gesture – or a move which has reshaped the legal landscape.

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  • London attackLondon attack: Terrorism expert explains three threats of jihadism in the West

    By Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens

    In the wake of the 22 March terrorist attack in London, the only certainty, unfortunately, is that this attack will not be the last such attack in the West. As IS loses ground in Iraq and Syria, it will do all it can to retain an ability to strike in the West. While their key aim is to inspire attacks like those in Paris and Brussels, they will be increasingly difficult to conduct. This is due both to its dwindling resources and the increasing readiness of European security agencies who will be learning from recent attacks. Lone actors, while rare, will continue offer IS a cost-free method of attack. Meanwhile, virtual entrepreneurs will be doing all they can to help their Western contacts plot and execute mass killings from afar.

  • Muslim surveillanceSecond judge approves settlement on NYPD Muslim surveillance

    The second of two federal judges has approved a settlement with the New York City Police Department that protects New York Muslims and others from discriminatory and unjustified surveillance. The new rules govern when and how investigations are conducted, and provide for an independent civilian representative inside the NYPD who will act as a check against surveillance abuses.

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  • PrivacyProtecting web users’ privacy

    By Larry Hardesty

    Most website visits these days entail a database query — to look up airline flights, for example, or to find the fastest driving route between two addresses. But online database queries can reveal a surprising amount of information about the people making them. And some travel sites have been known to jack up the prices on flights whose routes are drawing an unusually high volume of queries. MIT researchers next week will present a new encryption system that disguises users’ database queries so that they reveal no private information.

  • Science & securityMIT president calls for investing in basic science to maintain U.S. edge

    President Trump’s proposed budget slashes at least $7 billion in funding for science programs. That course of action would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, argues L. Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “Since World War II, the U.S. government has been the world’s biggest supporter of potentially transformative science — which is a key reason why the country continues to have the highest share of knowledge- and technology-intensive industries in the world, amounting to nearly 40 percent of the economy,” Reif writes in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs.

  • Science & securityNSF-funded research continues to support national security

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is usually associated with supporting scientists who go on to win Nobel Prizes, leading exploration of the planet’s polar regions, and enabling discoveries about the universe, from the subatomic world to distant galaxies. But the foundation also has ties to national defense that go back to its beginnings, as a product of the U.S. government working to enhance security during and after the Second World War. The National Science Foundation Act of 1950 called for the creation of an agency to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.” NSF’s founder, Vannevar Bush, said: “It has become clear beyond all doubt that scientific research is absolutely essential to national security.”

  • Carbon emissionsCarbon Law, modeled after Moore’s Law, a pathway to halve emissions every decade

    Moore’s Law states that computer processors double in power about every two years. While it is neither a natural nor legal law, this simple rule of thumb or heuristic has been described as a golden rule which has held for fifty years and still drives disruptive innovation. Research say that a carbon roadmap, driven by a simple rule of thumb, or Carbon Law, of halving emissions every decade, could catalyze disruptive innovation. Following a Carbon Law, which is based on published energy scenarios, would give the world a 75 percent chance of keeping Earth below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, the target agreed by nations in Paris in 2015.

  • Emerging threatsHave humans transformed geological processes to create a new epoch -- the Anthropocene?

    The Anthropocene — the concept that humans have so transformed geological processes at the Earth’s surface that we are living in a new epoch — was formulated by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000. It has since spread around not just the world of science, but also across the humanities and through the media into public consciousness. An international group of scientists – the Anthropocene Working Group – is now analyzing the Anthropocene as a potential new addition to the Geological Time Scale, which would be a major step in its global scientific recognition. These scientists argue that “irreversible” changes to the Earth provide striking evidence of new epoch.

  • Westminster terrorist attackLondon terrorist British-born, known to security services

    The Westminster attacker was identified as Khalid Masood, a Britain-born Muslim with a history of petty crimes who had previously been investigated by MI5 for ties to extremist organizations, Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons. May said the probe took place several years ago, and that the suspect was not “part of the current intelligence picture.” “The police have no reason to believe there are imminent further attacks on the public,” she told MPs.

  • Terrorist threatsIsraeli police arrest teen over wave of bomb threats against Jewish targets in U.S.

    The Israeli police, acting on a request by the FBI, has arrested a 19-year-old Israeli Jewish man on suspicion of making dozens of threats against Jewish organizations in the United States, and against airlines in the United States and other countries. The unnamed teen, who has a dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship, lives in the southern sea-side city of Ashkelon. The arrest was made after several waves of threats in the past two months against Jewish community centers (JCCs) and other Jewish organizations. The teen used advanced technology in an effort to mask the source of his calls and communications to synagogues, community centers, and public venues.

  • Middle EastIsrael plans mass evacuations in case of war With Hamas, Hezbollah

    In case of a future war with the Islamist terrorist groups Hamas or Hezbollah, Israel would completely evacuate its border communities — up to 250,000 people in either case — to lower the threat level, news reports say. These evacuations, coordinated with local municipalities to keep civilians safe, would be the biggest in Israeli history.

  • The Troubles & the transformationMartin McGuinness: the IRA commander who walked down a political path

    By Peter John McLoughlin

    Martin McGuinness, 66, died on 21 March 2017. He suffered from amyloidosis, a rare disease which attacks the body’s vital organs. In 1998, Martin McGuinness, a former commander in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), joined Reverend Ian Paisley, the firebrand Protestant leader, to support and implement the Good Friday Agreement, which brought power sharing to the governing of Northern Ireland. Many nationalists accused Paisley of instigating the Troubles by orchestrating opposition to the civil rights movement. Many unionists refused to forgive McGuinness’s role in IRA violence. For victims of violence on either side of the conflict, the focus on the past is understandable, and it is also true that there were voices on both sides of the divide who, from the outset, consistently argued for a more peaceful way toward change in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, however, figures such as McGuinness and Paisley both helped lead more intransigent minds down that political path. As long as future generations are prepared to continue with the same endeavor, the most enduring legacy of the former firebrand preacher and the former IRA commander will be a peaceful, just, and democratic settlement in Ireland.

  • Airport securityNew training system improves airport screening efficiency, accuracy

    Among the many tasks assigned to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), they must screen every bag boarding commercial aircraft within the United States. Visual search of X-ray images is a repetitive task for the approximately 50,000 screeners employed by TSA, with an often low probability of encountering a threat. TSOs are trained to use perceptual cues such as color, orientation and spatial location of individual items to identify potential threats and differentiate them from non-threat items in the X-ray images of scanned bags. DHS S&T’s Office for Public Safety Research (OPS-R) developed a training system that not only makes TSOs more efficient, but also maintains their accuracy.

  • Biodetection“Lab-on-a-glove” brings nerve-agent detection to a wearer's fingertips

    Organophosphate nerve agents, including sarin and VX, are highly toxic and can prevent the nervous system from working properly. Organophosphate pesticides are far less potent but work in a similar way and can cause illness in people who are exposed to them, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Detecting either type of these sets of compounds accurately and quickly could help improve both defense and food security measures.

  • STEM educationForeign graduate students, postdocs consider leaving the U.S.

    On 6 March, President Donald Trump signed a second executive order to suspend immigration from six predominately Muslim countries, this time excluding Iraq from the list. According to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the move has prompted foreign graduate students and postdoctoral researchers currently in the United States to start looking elsewhere for educational, training and job opportunities.

  • Emerging threatsClimate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts

    The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise, and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heatwaves.

  • TerrorismTerrorist shot, killed at the entrance to U.K. Parliament, after mowing people down with car

    A terrorist drove his car into a group of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and after his car crashed into a security railing, ran into the House of Parliaments wielding a big knife. He stabbed one security guard just inside the main gate to Westminster Palace before being shot and killed by the police. More than a dozen pedestrians were injured on the bridge, some seriously, and at least one woman was killed. The House of Parliament and House of Lords are under lock-down, and members of both houses were instructed to stay indoors.

  • TerrorismMost home-grown terrorists in U.K. come from London, Birmingham

    A new study takes a detailed, in-depth look at Islamism-inspired terrorism convictions and suicide attacks in the United Kingdom between 1998 and 2015, focusing on the offenders’ backgrounds and their activities as well as offense-specified data. The study finds that the threat to the United Kingdom remains from “home-grown” terrorism, and is heavily youth- and male-oriented, with British nationals prevalent among offenders. Although small, women’s involvement nearly trebled in recent years and is typically supportive of men involved in terrorist activity with whom they have a family or personal relationship. Analysis of offenders’ residence shows the primacy of London- and Birmingham-based individuals as well as higher than average relative deprivation and Muslim population at neighborhood level.

  • ImmigrationProblems associated with enlisting local police for immigration enforcement

    As a candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has described undocumented immigrants as a threat to public safety and has promised to create a “deportation force” to remove millions of immigrants from the country. Through his words and actions, President Trump has indicated that he aims to enlist state and local law enforcement in this deportation force through both inducement and coercion, by aggressively promoting the 287(g) program and threatening to cut federal funding of so-called sanctuary jurisdictions. Law enforcement personnel already face enormous challenges with limited resources. In the coming months, many state and local officials and local law enforcement agencies will face a choice: whether and how to assume a greater role in enforcing federal immigration laws.

  • CybersecurityNew brain-inspired cybersecurity system detects “bad apples” 100 times faster

    Cybersecurity is critical — for national security, corporations and private individuals. Sophisticated cybersecurity systems excel at finding “bad apples” in computer networks, but they lack the computing power to identify the threats directly. These limits make it easy for new species of “bad apples” to evade modern cybersecurity systems. And security analysts must sort the real dangers from false alarms. The Neuromorphic Cyber Microscope, designed by Lewis Rhodes Labs in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, directly addresses this limitation. Due to its brain-inspired design, it can look for the complex patterns that indicate specific “bad apples,” all while using less electricity than a standard 60-watt light bulb.

  • PrivacyBorder agents should obtain a warrant to search travelers’ phones, EFF tells court

    Border agents must obtain a warrant to search travelers’ phones, tablets, and laptops, which contain a vast trove of sensitive, highly personal information that is protected by the Fourth Amendment, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told a federal appeals court the other day. The EFF says that searches of devices at the border have more than doubled since the inauguration of President Trump — from nearly 25,000 in all of 2016, to 5,000 in February alone. This increase, along with the increasing number of people who carry these devices when they travel, has heightened awareness of the need for stronger privacy rights while crossing the U.S. border.