Today's news

  • ImmigrationImmigration cases clog immigration courts across the country

    The highly publicized mass immigration of Central American children into the United States — roughly 57,000 over a little under a year — many court systems are facing a crisis as the number of judges, lawyers, and juries available cannot keep up with demand. Across the United States, that caseload reached 375,373 trials last month — an average of 1,500 per each of the country’s 243 immigration judges. Some rescheduled cases are being pushed back as late as 2017.

  • Infrastructure protectionScientists urge making critical infrastructure more resilient to solar storms

    Scientists predict the probability of a massive solar storm striking the Earth in the next decade to be 12 percent. The 23 July 2012 solar storm was pointed away from Earth and blasted safely into space, but had it been directed towards Earth, it would have produced the worst geomagnetic storm in more than four centuries, causing extensive electricity problems that could take years to resolve. Scientists are debating the amount of damage the grid would suffer during a massive solar storm. The U.S. National Academy of Sciencesestimated in 2008 that the damage and disruption could reach up to $2 trillion with a full recovery time between four and ten years.

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  • Ebola outbreakWest African countries intensify efforts to contain Ebola outbreak

    Togo-based, pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and growing fears of the rapidly spreading Ebola virus have led the Liberian football association to cancel games. Liberia plans to shut down schools and many markets, place all non-essential public servants on leave and quarantine several communities. The rural communities which will be guaranteed will have food supplies and medical support ferried only by approved persons. All public facilities could be chlorinated and disinfected on Friday, and public gatherings have already been banned.

  • Border securityDoes the border really need Perry’s 1,000 National Guard?

    By Robert Lee Maril

    Various solutions to the two and one-half year surge at the border by unaccompanied children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have been proposed by Congress, law enforcement, the public, and politicians with a dog in the fight. The increase in unaccompanied children seeking asylum, however, should be defined less as a border security problem, and more as a refugee problem. At the same time, this newest border dilemma reemphasizes Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform that could calmly address this and other real border issues, all problems with which individual states like Texas have had to contend since 1986.

  • DHS grantsAlabama did not share enough DHS funds with local governments

    An audit by the DHS inspector general’s office found that Alabama’s Homeland Securityprogram has not met the conditions of receiving DHS grants, as it fails to share adequate grant money with local governments. The audit, completed in May, found that of the $20.5 million awarded to Alabama for homeland security projects between 2010 and 2012, the state agency gave less than the required 80 percent of funds to local governments.

  • Nuclear processingContinued funding for S.C. mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) plant – at least until fall

    Federal legislators have secured the funds to keep the mixed-oxide fuelplant (MOX) at the Savannah River Sitein South Carolina moving forward at least into fall, according to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and members of the state’s congressional delegation. The 310-square mile site once produced components for nuclear weapons, but since the agreement with Russia to turn nuclear weapons into reactor fuel, the site has focused on repurposing and cleanup.

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  • Food safetyNew methods of detecting Salmonella in pork meat processing

    Infections caused by foodborne microorganisms are an increasing public health burden. In a Ph.D. project at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, new methods of characterizing and detecting foodborne illness-causing Salmonella in pork meat processing and in bacteria in water, feed and food samples were studied.

  • STEM educationCreating sustainable university and college STEM programs

    A new study has identified two factors that characterize sustainable university and college programs designed to increase the production of highly qualified physics teachers. Specifically, one or more faculty members who choose to champion physics teacher education in combination with institutional motivation and commitment can ensure that such initiatives remain viable. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher shortages are especially acute in physics, and the study points the way for institutions seeking to increase the number of STEM graduates prepared to teach.

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  • Border securityBorder surveillance towers deployment on hold as GAO seeks reevaluation

    DHS’s plan to deploy fifty surveillance towers across southern Arizona is temporarily on hold, following a protest by Raytheonthat the agency improperly awarded the work to rival EFW. In a decisionreleased last Thursday by the Government Accountability Office(GAO), DHS has been asked to reevaluate the competitors’ proposals, saying that it is possible Raytheon was “prejudiced by the agency’s errors” during an evaluation of proposals.

  • Space securityU.S. faces serious future threats in space

    Gen. William Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, said last week that U.S. dominance in space will be challenged by very real threats in the years ahead. The general said that those threats might consist of “jammers, lasers and tactical space nukes,” with any of these challenges exponentially more dangerous than in the past as the technology becomes more common.

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  • EpidemicsWhat you need to know about Ebola

    More West African nations are alerting health officials and citizens about the potential for the deadly Ebola disease to spread by individuals traveling from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where more than 700 people have died in recent weeks.An American doctor, Kent Brantly, working in Monrovia, Liberia with Ebola patients has contracted the disease.

  • CybersecuritySWAMP: Improving software assurance activities

    The Software Assurance Market Place, or SWAMP, is an online, open-source, collaborative research environment that allows software developers and researchers to test their software for security weaknesses, improve tools by testing against a wide range of software packages, and interact and exchange best practices to improve software assurance tools and techniques.

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  • Nuclear powerHopes for quicker, cheaper ways to build nuclear power plants dim

    Promises of building a more cost effective U.S. nuclear industry continue to face setbacks as alternative energy sources like natural gas become cheaper for utilities, while new models for nuclear plants face cost overruns.Nuclear reactor developers sought to build new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks to save time and reduce labor costs, butanalysts consider the designs for the new nuclear reactors to be difficult or impossible to build.

  • STEM educationStudents race for top prize in RoboBoat Competition

    Obstacle avoidance. Automated docking. Speed gates. Acoustic beacon positioning. Underwater light identification. These are just some of the missions teams had to successfully complete to win at the 7th annual International RoboBoat Competition, held 8-13 July at the Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The competition has drawn increasing attention in recent years, particularly as nearly half the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce will be retirement-eligible by the year 2020.

  • WaterThe world faces water shortage by 2040

    Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today. It is a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand.

  • TerrorismISIS’s appeal to Islamist recruits grows as al Qaeda seen as stale, tired, and ineffectual

    Advances by militant groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the midst of turmoil in the Arab world, while al-Qaeda’s aging leaders remain relatively silent, have led would-be terrorists and Islamic scholars to question al-Qaeda’s influence on global Jihad and its would-be fighters. Within the social circles of potential militant recruits, al-Qaeda is increasingly seen as stale, tired, and ineffectual.

  • Education“Aggressive” Islamic effort to influence Birmingham, U.K. schools: Report

    A report issued on 22 July by former U.K. antiterrorism chief suggests that some of the concerns raised in a letter which outlined Operation Trojan Horse — an attempt by Islamic extremists to take over British schools in Muslim neighborhoods – may be real, even if the letter itself was probably a hoax. The storm caused by the letter and the subsequent investigation and report concern more that public schools in the City of Birmingham. At issue are the clash between British and Islamic values and norms, and, more broadly, the efforts in Britain and other West Europe countries to assimilate a growing Muslim minority.

  • Aviation securityBackscatter body scanner making a comeback

    Airline passengers have already said bon voyage to the controversial backscatter X-ray security scanners, pulled from U.S. airports in 2013 over concerns about privacy and potential radiation risks. The devices may, however, be reintroduced in the future, in part because they produce superior images of many concealed threats, and Congress still wants to know whether these systems — currently used in prisons, in diamond mines, and by the military — produce safe levels of radiation for screeners and the people they screen.

  • Disaster preparationCalifornia builds a sophisticated Emergency Response Training Center

    Citing the need for further emergency training, some Sacramento County officials have proposed a plan to construct a $56 million training facility for Californian emergency responders which would handle all types of training and scenarios.

  • SuperbugsClay minerals may offer an answer to MRSA, other superbug infections

    Researchers set out to identify naturally occurring antibacterial clays effective at killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They incubated the pathogens Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis, which breeds skin infections, with clays from volcanic deposit near Crater Lake, Oregon. They found that the clays’ rapid uptake of iron impaired bacterial metabolism. Cells were flooded with excess iron, which overwhelmed iron storage proteins and killed the bacteria.

  • BiothreatsCDC resumes pathogen shipments

    Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) announced it would reopen its clinical tuberculosis lab to resume transfer of inactivated tuberculosis bacteria to lower-level CDC labs for genetic analysis. CDC head Tom Frieden imposed a ban on transfers involving high-level pathogens following a series of incidents and mishandling of such pathogens at CDC labs.

  • Kurdish region“Independent” Kurds need Baghdad more than they’d like

    By Tristan Dunning

    Iraqi Kurds are in a unique position to declare independence in defiance of a seemingly powerless central government in Baghdad following the rapid disintegration of Iraq in the face of the Islamic State in Iraq and As-Sham (ISIS) onslaught. But is independence as simple as that, a fait accompli resulting from a series of unpredictable events? Unpalatable as it may sound to Iraqi Kurds, the KRG needs Baghdad far more than it is prepared to admit. By all means, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) should seek to leverage a better deal out of Baghdad — the Kurdish armed forces, or peshmerga, are vital to the fight against ISIS. In terms of full independence, though, the costs seem to outweigh the benefits at present.