• Cuban mystery21 U.S. diplomats in Cuba suffered “acquired brain injury from an exposure of unknown origin”: Experts

    In late 2016, U.S. government personnel in Havana, Cuba, visited the embassy medical unit after experiencing unusual sound and sensory phenomena and the onset of neurological symptoms. Researchers who examined the twenty-one diplomats say that concussion-like symptoms were observed in the 11 women and 10 men after they reported hearing intensely loud sounds in their homes and hotel rooms and feeling changes in air pressure caused by an unknown source. The symptoms were consistent with brain injury, although there was no history of head trauma. The experts who examined the American diplomats concluded: “The unique circumstances of these patients and the clinical manifestations detailed in this report raise concern about a new mechanism for possible acquired brain injury from an exposure of unknown origin.”

  • Truth decayFake news “vaccine”: online game may “inoculate” by simulating propaganda tactics

    A new experiment, just launched online, aims to help “inoculate” against disinformation by providing a small dose of perspective from a “fake news tycoon.” The game encourages players to stoke anger, mistrust and fear in the public by manipulating digital news and social media within the simulation. Players build audiences for their fake news sites by publishing polarizing falsehoods, deploying twitter bots, photo-shopping evidence, and inciting conspiracy theories in the wake of public tragedy – all while maintaining a “credibility score” to remain as persuasive as possible. The psychological theory behind the research is called “inoculation”: “A biological vaccine administers a small dose of the disease to build immunity. Similarly, inoculation theory suggests that exposure to a weak or demystified version of an argument makes it easier to refute when confronted with more persuasive claims,” says a researcher.

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  • Universal vaccineBill to jump-start universal flu vaccine efforts

    As the nation grapples with a long and unrelenting flu season rivaling by some measures the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, a group of U.S. senators last week unveiled a proposal to invest $1 billion in research over the next 5 years to create a universal flu vaccine that would provide lifetime protection against a range of influenza strains. The announcement came just as U.S. researchers released an interim report card on the flu vaccine’s performance so far this season, which again showed disappointingly low effectiveness against H3N2, this season’s dominant strain.

  • EncryptionFramework for policymakers to address debate over encryption

    A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine proposes a framework for evaluating proposals to provide authorized government agencies with access to unencrypted versions of encrypted communications and other data.  The framework is the product of an 18-month study led by a diverse array of leaders from law enforcement, computer science, civil liberties, law, and other disciplines.

  • Critical materialsU.S. seeks to boost domestic production of 35 critical minerals

    The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) last week announced it was seeking public comment by 19 March 2018 on a draft list of minerals considered critical to the economic and national security of the United States. The draft list of minerals that DOI published last week as critical to the United States includes thirty-five mineral commodities. A “critical mineral” is a mineral identified to be a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.

  • Critical materialsMeet the new “renewable superpowers”: nations that boss the materials used for wind and solar

    By Andrew Barron

    Imagine a world where every country has not only complied with the Paris climate agreement but has moved away from fossil fuels entirely. How would such a change affect global politics? The twentieth century was dominated by coal, oil and natural gas, but a shift to zero-emission energy generation and transport means a new set of elements will become key. Solar energy, for instance, still primarily uses silicon technology, for which the major raw material is the rock quartzite. Lithium represents the key limiting resource for most batteries – while rare earth metals, in particular “lanthanides” such as neodymium, are required for the magnets in wind turbine generators. Copper is the conductor of choice for wind power, being used in the generator windings, power cables, transformers and inverters. In considering this future it is necessary to understand who wins and loses by a switch from carbon to silicon, copper, lithium, and rare earth metals.

  • BiothreatsFive finalists in $300K biothreat prize competition

    Five finalists were announced today for Stage 1 of the $300,000 Hidden Signals Challenge. Issued by the DHS S&T, in collaboration with the Office of Health Affairs National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC), the challenge calls for the design of an early warning system that uses existing data to uncover emerging biothreats. The announcement was made at the American Society for Microbiology’s 2018 ASM Biothreats meeting.

  • BiosafetyDozens of safety violations found at U.K. biolabs

    The U.K. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that there have been more than 40 incidents at high-security biolabs between June 2015 and July 2017. Mistakes led to staff being infected and falling ill at labs run by hospitals, private companies, and Public Health England.

  • Considered opinionSocial media is helping Putin kill our democracy

    By John R. Schindler

    There are few more important issues confronting the West today than what to do about social media companies, which thanks to their ubiquity possess vast riches and daunting influence over our democracies. The Russians have been spreading lies for decades. Active Measures, including fake reports, forged documents, and dastardly conspiracies invented out of thin air, were created by the KGB to smear Western governments. Social media made Moscow’s clandestine work much easier and more profitable. Although the lies currently emanating from the Kremlin resemble Cold War Active Measures in overall form and content, they are now disseminated so quickly, and through so many fronts, trolls, and bots, that Western governments are severely challenged to even keep up with these weaponized lies, much less push back. For this, we have the Internet to thank. While none can deny the countless benefits of the online age, this is one of its most pernicious side effects. It’s time the West seriously addressed the problem, and quickly, since this Kremlin spy game isn’t going away.

  • Our picksAge of unregulated social media is over; Twitter’s fake news problem; risk of bioweapon attack, and more

    · The Florida Douglas High School shooting was an anti-Semitic hate crime and nobody’s talking about it

    · The age of unregulated social media is over

    · Twitter’s fake news problem is getting worse

    · Russian troll farm indictment could boost social media legislation

    · What happens when a major world city runs dry?

    · The annual cost of U.S. cybercrime could top $100 billion

    · The future of DOD’s plan to defend against IoT threats

    · How the new tax law could slow disaster recovery in small towns

    · Risk of bioweapon attack growing, Dutch defense minister says

  • The Russia watchA Russian-American fraud; Russia goal: Unraveling U.S. democracy; disinformation & military readiness, and more

    · Reading the Mueller indictment: A Russian-American fraud

    · Mueller’s indictment ends Trump’s myth of the Russia “hoax”

    · Russian influence campaign: What’s in the latest Mueller indictment

    · Did Russia affect the 2016 election? It’s now undeniable

    · “Something was weird”: Inside the Russian effort to bamboozle Florida

    · What Mueller’s new Russia indictments mean — and what they don’t

    · Mueller’s indictment of Russian hackers highlights the stakes of the Microsoft case

    · For Russia, unraveling U.S. democracy was just another day job

    · The campaign finance loophole that could make the next Russian attack perfectly legal

    · Lessons about Russian social media meddling from Mueller’s indictment

    · White House objects to Russian hacking that doesn’t benefit Trump

    · How Russia turned the internet against America

    · Mueller’s message to America

    · Foreign disinformation is a threat to military readiness, too

  • The Russia connectionThirteen Russians criminally charged for interfering in 2016 election

    The sheer audacity, scope, and sophistication of the Kremlin’s hacking and disinformation campaign to ensure the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election have been exposed a short time ago in a 37-page indictment handed down by the office or Special Counsel Robert Mueller against thirteen Russians and three Kremlin-related organization. The detailed 37-page indictment says that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump” “and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” his Democratic opponent. The Russians posed as Americans to operate bogus social media accounts, buy advertisements, and stage political rallies. These Russian government operatives stole the identities of real people in the United States to post online and built computer systems in the United States to conceal the Russian origin of their activity, the indictment says. The indictment contradicts Trump’s false assertions that the idea that there was a Russian campaign to undermine the U.S. democratic process was nothing more than a “hoax,” “witch hunt,” and “fake news” concocted by the “dishonest media” and Democrats to explain Hillary Clinton’s loss.

  • Travel banTrump's travel ban “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam”: Court

    The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday described the latest version of Donald Trump’s travel ban as “unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam.” In a 9-4 vote, the federal appeals court said the ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries is unconstitutional because it discriminates against people based on their religion. In its ruling, the 4th Circuit said the presidential proclamation imposing the ban has a “much broader deleterious effect” than banning certain foreign nationals. The ban, the court said, “denies the possibility of a complete, intact family to tens of thousands of Americans.” “On a fundamental level, the Proclamation second-guesses our nation’s dedication to religious freedom and tolerance,” Chief Justice Roger Gregory wrote for the court in the majority opinion.

  • Florida shootingFlorida white supremacist group admits ties to Parkland School shooter

    A spokesperson for the white supremacist group Republic of Florida (ROF) claimed to the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday that Nikolas Cruz, the man charged with the previous day’s deadly shooting spree at a Parkland, Florida, high school, was associated with his group. If Cruz’s role is confirmed, the Parkland school shooting would be the second school shooting by a white supremacist in the past two months. In December 2017, another young white supremacist, William Atchison, engaged in a shooting spree at a high school in northwest New Mexico, killing two students before shooting himself.

  • GunsWhy American teenagers can buy AR-15s

    Nikolas Cruz was too young to buy a pistol at a gun shop. But no law prevented the teenager from purchasing the assault-style rifle he allegedly used to kill at least 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Florida is not unique. In most states, people can legally buy assault-style weapons before they can drink a beer. Federal law stipulates that gun stores and other licensed dealers may not sell a handgun to anyone under the age of 21, but they can sell long guns — that is, rifles and shotguns — to anyone who is at least 18. Twenty-three states have set minimum age requirements for the ownership of long guns, ranging from 14 in Minnesota to 21 in Illinois and Hawaii.

  • Cuban mysteryThe sound and the fury: Inside the mystery of the Havana embassy

    By Tim Golden and Sebastian Rotella

    More than a year after American diplomats began to suffer strange, concussion-like symptoms in Cuba, a U.S. investigation is no closer to determining how they were hurt or by whom, and the FBI and CIA are at odds over the case. A ProPublica investigation reveals the many layers to the mystery — and the political maneuvering that is reshaping U.S.-Cuba relations.

  • The Russia connectionU.K.: Russia launched last June’s costly NotPetya cyberattacks

    Russian military hackers were behind the NoPetya cyberattack on Ukraine that spread globally last year, the British government said. The United States said June’s NotPetya ransomware attack caused billions of dollars in damage across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said Russia was “ripping up the rule book” and the U.K. would respond.

  • Nuclear weaponsQuestioning the need for forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe

    NTI has just released “Building a Safe, Secure, and Credible NATO Nuclear Posture,” a report addressing the security risks, credibility, and financial and political costs of maintaining NATO’s current nuclear posture, including forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. The report urges U.S. and NATO leaders to re-evaluate whether storing nuclear weapons at multiple sites across multiple countries makes sense in light of today’s threats and escalating costs—and, importantly, whether the weapons are still required elements of NATO defense policy.

  • MaterialsSuper wood stronger than most metals

    Engineers have found a way to make wood more than ten times stronger and tougher than before, creating a natural substance that is stronger than many titanium alloys. “This new way to treat wood makes it twelve times stronger than natural wood and ten times tougher,” said one researcher. “This could be a competitor to steel or even titanium alloys, it is so strong and durable. It’s also comparable to carbon fiber, but much less expensive.”

  • Climate threatsRisk of extreme weather events higher if Paris Agreement goals are not met

    The Paris Agreement has aspirational goals of limiting temperature rise that will not be met by current commitments but the individual commitments made by parties of the UN Paris Agreement are not enough to fulfill the agreement’s overall goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The difference between the UN goal and the actual country commitments is a mere 1 C, which may seem negligible, but a new study finds that even that 1-degree difference could increase the likelihood of extreme weather.

  • Our picksOne nation under a gun; stopping a mass killer; post-Islamic State Marshall Plan, and more

    · One nation under a gun: Mass shootings in 40% of House districts in 2017

    · How to stop a mass killer? “Wait, watch, and hope they don’t act”

    · Stop and search is our best weapon in the fight against crime

    · The opportunistic rise of Europe’s far right

    · Chinese thwarted in bid to buy Chicago Stock Exchange

    · Intelligence agencies warn of climate risks in worldwide threat assessment

    · DHS developing supply chain security initiative

    · The post-Islamic State Marshall Plan that never was

    · Former MI6 Head John Sawers: Brexit could pose long-term problems for British security

  • The Russia watchRussian bots push fake pro-gun tweets; Trump: MIA on Russian hacking; Trojan Horse of Russian gas, and more

    · Pro-gun Russian bots flood Twitter after Parkland shooting

    · On election integrity, Russian hacking, Trump remains MIA

    · Why Trump will never accept what his spy chiefs keep saying

    · How Trump can hit the reset button on Russia sanctions

    · Corbyn’s meeting with a Communist spy: Labour leader met a Soviet agent from Czech security services · during the Cold War and tipped him off about MI5 clampdown

    · U.S. Democrats push $1 billion bill for election security

    · The Trojan Horse of Russian gas

    · U.S. will impose costs on Russia for cyber ‘acts of aggression,’ White House cybersecurity czar says