Today's news

  • ISISForeigners from more than 80 countries rushing to Iraq and Syria on “unprecedented scale”: UN

    A report by the UN Security Council has warned that foreign jihadists are swarming into Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale” and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism. The report finds that 15,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist groups. These volunteers come from more than eighty countries, the report states, “including a tail of countries that have not previously faced challenges relating to al-Qaeda.” ISIS is estimated to have more than $1 million in daily revenues from oil smuggling operations alone. It controls territory the size of Texas in Iraq and Syria, a territory which is home to between five and six million people, a population the size of Finland’s. The UN reports says that ISIS’s treasury also benefits from up to $45 million in money from kidnapping for ransom.

  • EbolaRate of infection in West Africa has begun to slow down

    Public health officials monitoring the Ebola epidemic in West Africa say the outbreak may have reached a turning point in which transmissions may have begun to slow down. Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, the organization funding a series of fast-tracked trials of Ebola vaccines and drugs, says that although the virus will continue to infect people in the months ahead, “it is finally becoming possible to see some light.”

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  • Infectious diseaseInfection outbreaks, unique diseases on the increase since 1980

    Ebola has a lot of company. In a novel database now made publicly available, researchers found that since 1980 the world has seen an increasing number of infectious disease outbreaks from an increasing number of sources. The good news, however, is that they are affecting a shrinking proportion of the world population. The number of infectious disease outbreaks and the number of unique illnesses causing them appear to be increasing around the globe, with more than 12,000 outbreaks affecting forty-four million people worldwide over the last thirty-three years.

  • CybersecurityIdentifying ways to improve smartphone security

    What information is beaming from your mobile phone over various computer networks this very second without you being aware of it? Experts say your contact lists, e-mail messages, surfed Web pages, browsing histories, usage patterns, online purchase records and even password protected accounts may all be sharing data with intrusive and sometimes malicious applications, and you may have given permission. The apps downloaded to smartphones can potentially track a user’s locations, monitor his or her phone calls and even monitor the messages a user sends and receives — including authentication messages used by online banking and other sites, he says, explaining why unsecured digital data are such a big issue. Assigning risk scores to apps may slow down unwarranted access to personal information.

  • SurveillanceICE offices subscribed to national license-plate database in violation of DHS policy

    In February, DHS officials dropped a controversial bidwhich would have allowed the department to access a national license-plate database, citing possible violation of Americans’ civil liberties. Soon after, DHS officials established a policy which required similar plans to be reviewed by department privacy officers. Roughly two months after that policy was put in place, officials with DHS’s Newark and Houston field offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) agency purchased subscriptions for a commercially run national license-plate database without approval from DHS’ privacy office.

  • InfrastructureUpgrading infrastructure could reduce future flood damage

    From 1980 to 2007, about 90 percent of all global disasters were caused by flooding either by rain, tsunami, hurricane, or some other natural event. At the same time, the American Society of Civil Engineer’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the country a dismal D+. The group said $3.6 trillion was needed by 2020 to address the most serious problems. In Colorado, the report card says, 70 percent of major roads are poor or mediocre and 566 bridges are structurally deficient. A new study argues that the severe flooding that devastated a wide swath of Colorado last year might have been less destructive if the bridges, roads, and other infrastructure had been upgraded or modernized.

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  • EarthquakesTexas acts to reduce number of man-made earthquakes

    The number of disposal wells in Texas has surged along with the number of drilling projects. Texas has more than 3,600 active commercial disposal wells. In 2013, the Railroad Commission approved 668 disposal well permits, twice the number of approvals in 2009. The growing number of disposal wells corresponds with an increase in earthquakes in communities where such seismic activity rarely existed.Officials in Texas have now taken steps to reduce the number of earthquakes caused by wells drilled for the disposal of oilfield waste.

  • EbolaLack of federal authority makes fashioning coherent national Ebola policy difficult

    Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) issued new guidelines on how states should deal with travelers from Ebola-stricken regions, but a lack of federal authority to mandate such guidelines has led to conflicting strategies, varying from state to state, which includes mandatory at-home quarantine for some travelers. Under current U.S. law, the states have the authority to issue quarantine or isolation policies, and they also control the enforcement of these policies within their territories.

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  • EspionageNew report details Russia’s cyber-espionage activities

    Researchers at FireEye, a Silicon Valley-based computer security firm, are connecting the Russian government to cyber espionage efforts around the world. The researchers released a report on Tuesday which says that hackers working for the Russian government have, for seven years now, been hacking into computer networks used by the government of Georgia, other Eastern European governments, and some European security organizations.

  • CybersecurityGeorgia Tech releases 2015 Emerging Cyber Threats Report

    In its latest Emerging Cyber Threats Report, Georgia Tech warns about loss of privacy; abuse of trust between users and machines; attacks against the mobile ecosystem; rogue insiders; and the increasing involvement of cyberspace in nation-state conflicts.

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  • Hurricane SandyMany victims of Hurricane Sandy are still waiting for government aid

    It has been two years since Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of homes and businesses along the Jersey Shore yet many affected homeowners are still waiting for federal and state aid to rebuild. Of the $3.26 billion the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided to New Jersey, only $802 million has been paid out as of 30 September. The federal government’s first allocation of Sandy funds to New Jersey came seven months after the storm. The state has yet to issue any of the $1.46 billion approved by HUD in May, and New Jersey officials expect a final round of $880 million next spring.

  • 911 systemsConnecticut and Kansas implement next-gen 911 system

    Connecticut and Kansas are both currently installing the next generation of 911 telephone systems (NG911) in different cycles, but both are seeing the added benefits of the evolved system.NG911 will allow both states to offer the services of up-to-the-second multimedia information, including cell phone texts and video, as responders rush to an emergency site.

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  • First responseLos Angeles mayor says fire response times are too slow

    Citing new research and statistics, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed that previous fire station response times “stunk” and that with a new program in place, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) would be able to cut those responses considerably. The new FireStat program had revealed that the responses were considerably slower than what former Fire Chief Brian Cummings had been reporting.

  • FrackingState regulators discuss the connection between fracking and earthquake

    Regulators from states with significant petroleum and natural gas exploration activities met last week in Columbus, Ohio as part of the 2014 Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission conference.One key topic of discussion at the conference wasthe potential implications of a study which found that numerous, unnoticeable earthquakes in Harrison County, Ohio, likely were linked to oil and natural gas exploration. 190 of the quakes which ranged from magnitude 1.7 to 2.2, occurred in the thirty-nine hours after fracking activity occurred at one well in late September and early October 2013.

  • EducationRose State College launches new Homeland Security Institute

    Rose State College in Oklahoma has announced the establishment of a Homeland Security Institute. The Institute, the first educational program of its kind in Oklahoma, will provide education and training in domestic and foreign terrorism prevention, emergency command procedures, and management of natural and manmade disasters. The counterterrorism educational phase will begin January 2015 with the launching of four online classes.

  • TerrorismDzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friend convicted of lying to police investigating Boston Marathon bombing

    Robel Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted yesterday (Tuesday) of lying to police during the investigation of the 2013 attack. Phillipos was convicted of two counts for lying about being in Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the attack, at the same time that two other friends removed a backpack containing fireworks and other related evidence from the room. The three friends went to Tsarnaev’s room while federal and local law enforcement units were engaged in an intense search for the bombing suspects.

  • CBPCourt orders reinstatement of CBP terminated employee, saying termination was unjustified

    Customs and Border Protection(CBP) agent Thomas G. Wrocklage has triumphedin his effort to return to work following a federal appeals court’s disagreement with how the Merit Systems Protection Board(MSPB) decided his removal appeal. Wrocklage disagreed with his supervisors about a $300 fine issued to an elderly couple returning from a trip to Canada for failure to disclose to a second border officer that they had with them some fruits and vegetables.

  • EbolaInfection projections: how the spread of Ebola is calculated

    By Jonathan Keith

    Ebola is an example of an emerging infectious disease (EID): one that has newly appeared in a population or has undergone a rapid increase in incidence. Bioinformatics plays a key role in detecting, monitoring and responding to EIDs. In the case of Ebola, the bioinformatics community has responded rapidly. For example, the current outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone was first detected in May, but by September a study reported sequencing 99 Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients diagnosed with the disease between late May and mid-June. Bioinformaticians have been developing and refining algorithms for sequence assembly since the late 1980s, and are constantly adapting them so they can handle new sequencing technologies and ever-larger scales of assembly. Bioinformatics is, and will continue to be, a core component of the international response to Ebola and other EIDs, and patients, medical staff and those close to them need all the help they can get.

  • DronesLegal framework needed to govern soon-to-arrive autonomous killer drones: Experts

    With about 8,000 unmanned aircrafts and roughly 12,000 unmanned ground vehicles, the U.S. military boasts the world’s largest drone arsenal, followed by Israel, with China, Europe, India, and Russia in the second tier. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will pose a challenge to current international laws of warfare since someday, and sooner rather than later, they will be able to act autonomously – and kill autonomously. The international community has yet to adopt special laws to govern the use of drones in combat.

  • EMS droneEMS drone dramatically increases survival chances of heart attack patients, accident victims

    A Dutch graduate student has designed an unmanned, autonomously navigating mini airplane that can quickly deliver a defibrillator to where it is needed. When the emergency services receive a cardiac arrest call, this drone can quickly deliver a defibrillator to the emergency scene. Via a livestream video and audio connection, the drone can also provide direct feedback to the emergency services and the persons on site can be instructed how to treat the patient. The drone finds the patient’s location through the caller’s mobile phone signal and makes its way to the location using GPS. The drone can carry up to four kilograms of medical equipment.

  • SurveillancePeekaboo, I see you: Government authority intended for terrorism is used for other purposes

    By Mark M. Jaycox

    The Patriot Act continues to wreak its havoc on civil liberties. Section 213 was included in the Patriot Act over the protests of privacy advocates and granted law enforcement the power to conduct a search while delaying notice to the suspect of the search. Known as a “sneak and peek” warrant, law enforcement was adamant Section 213 was needed to protect against terrorism. But the latest government report detailing the numbers of “sneak and peek” warrants reveals that out of a total of over 11,000 sneak and peek requests, only fifty-one were used for terrorism. Yet again, terrorism concerns appear to be trampling our civil liberties.

  • ResilienceStates invest in resilience in the face of mounting extreme-weather challenges

    Months after Superstorm Sandy devastated the New York coast line, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office of Storm Recovery launched a $17 billion strategy to transform the state’s infrastructure. Project Reimagining New York for a New Reality sought to make the state’s transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection efforts, weather warning systems, and emergency management more resilient. The strategy is just one example of a trend in investments toward resilience efforts post Hurricane Katrina, Irene, Lee, and Sandy.