Today's news

  • EbolaSome steps taken by schools, businesses for fear of Ebola seen as excessive

    The plane carrying Amber Joy Vinson, the second Texas nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola, on the trip she took to from Cleveland to Dallas,is now in isolation in a Denver hangar.The 800 passengers who flew on the same planes as Vinson are being asked to self-quarantine for roughly twenty-one days. Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas has postponed recruiting applicants from Africa. Some see these and similar measures as excessive.

  • Ebola21-day quarantine for Ebola may not be enough to prevent spread of virus: Study

    As medical personnel and public health officials are responding to the first reported cases of Ebola Virus in the United States, many of the safety and treatment procedures for treating the virus and preventing its spread are being reexamined. One of the tenets for minimizing the risk of spreading the disease has been a 21-day quarantine period for individuals who might have been exposed to the virus. A new study looks at the murky basis for our knowledge about the virus, namely previous outbreaks in Africa in 1976 (Zaire) and 2000 (Uganda), as well as the first nine months of the current outbreak, and suggests that twenty-one days might not be enough completely to prevent spread of the virus.

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  • EpidemicsMedical advances should not lead to complacency regarding possible flu pandemic: Scientists

    There have been five such pandemics in the past 100 years, the worst of which — the 1918 Spanish Flu — cost fifty million lives worldwide. As our ability to assess the pandemic risk from strains of influenza virus increases with the latest scientific developments, we must not allow ourselves to become complacent that the most substantial threats have been identified, argue an international consortium of scientists.

  • TurkeyTurkey will not agree to U.S. support for Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria: Erdogan

    Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday (Sunday) that Turkey would not agree to any U.S. arms transfers to Kurdish fighters who are fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria. ISIS increased its pressure on the Kurdish city of Kobani, just inside Syria across the Turkish border, but Turkey views the PYD, the main Syrian Kurdish group defending Kobani, as an extension of the PKK, a pro-Kurdish independence group which, in 1984, had launched an insurgency campaign against the Turkish state – a campaign which, until it officially ended in 2012, had cost the lives of about 42,000 Turks

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • SurveillanceGrowing scrutiny of police use of Stingray surveillance technology

    IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), aka Stingray, is a surveillance technology which simulates cell phone towers in order to intercept mobile phone calls and text messages. Privacy advocates have scrutinized the use of Stingrays in U.S. cities because, when the device tracks a suspect’s cell phone, it also gathers information about the phones of bystanders within the target range. Additionally, police use Stingrays without properly identifying the technology when requesting search warrants has raised concerns.

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  • EnergyExploring power of thorium for improved nuclear design

    An international project aims to develop a radical new type of nuclear power station that is safer, more cost-effective, compact, quicker, and less disruptive to build than any previously constructed. Funded by the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a team at the University of Cambridge is exploring whether the element thorium could help to meet the new design’s fuel needs. As well as being three to four times more abundant than uranium, thorium could potentially produce electricity more fuel efficiently and therefore more cheaply.

  • EnergyA boom in global natural gas, by itself, will not slow climate change

    A new analysis of global energy use, economics, and the climate shows that without new climate policies, expanding the current bounty of inexpensive natural gas alone would not slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide over the long term. Because natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many people hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change — and according to government analyses, natural gas did contribute partially to a decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2012. In the long run, however, according to this study, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas would compete with all energy sources — not just higher-emitting coal, but also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use.

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  • EbolaCDC assigns risk management teams to hospitals

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that it would send a team of experts to any hospital in the country with a confirmed Ebola case, saying that if such a precaution had been taken at the recent botched infection case on 8 October in Dallas, Texas that facility staff would not have been at risk for infection. These disease control specialists will be able to manage situations including infection control, lab science, personal protective equipment, and the overall management of Ebola units and wards.

  • EbolaCDC’s disease detectives help deal with Ebola crisis

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Epidemic Intelligence Service(EIS) is the federal government’s intelligence gathering arm for mysterious or unidentified diseases anywhere in the world.The program is staffed with postdoctoral fellows who often go on to hold significant positions in public health or medical academia. The United States Public Health Service (now the CDC) established the EIS in 1951 out of concerns about biological warfare against the U.S. homeland during the Korean War.

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  • EbolaIAEA to provide nuclear detection technology to help diagnose Ebola in West Africa

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would provide specialized diagnostic equipment to help Sierra Leone in its efforts to combat the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak. Later, the support is planned to be extended to Liberia and Guinea. The support is in line with a UN Security Council appeal and responds to a request from Sierra Leone. The IAEA assistance will supplement the country’s ability to diagnose EVD quickly using a diagnostic technology known as Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). RT-PCR is a nuclear-derived technology which allows EVD to be detected within a few hours, while other methods require growing on a cell culture for several days before a diagnosis is determined.

  • EbolaHow are nurses becoming infected with Ebola?

    By C. Raina MacIntyre

    WHO, CDC, and health authorities in many countries recommend health workers treating Ebola wear surgical masks for protection, along with other personal protective equipment such gowns, gloves, and goggles. A glaring inconsistency of these guidelines is that lab scientists working with Ebola are recommended to use respirators, which offer more protection than surgical masks, while masks are deemed adequate for doctors and nurses at the front line. The hospital ward, however, is a far more contaminated and volatile environment than the sterile, highly controlled lab, and nurses have the closest contact with patients, and deserve all available protection for their occupational health and safety. In most responses, lack of knowledge about infection control may not be critical, but in the case of Ebola it may cost lives. The price of getting it wrong with flu guidelines might be a week in bed, but for Ebola it is far more likely to be death. The risk analysis equation we need to use must consider not only the probability of Ebola turning up on our shores, but also the consequences.

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  • African securityEgypt’s military involvement in the anti-Islamist campaign in Libya deepens

    Two days ago, on Wednesday, Egypt has escalated its involvement in the battle against Libyan Islamists, as Egyptian warplanes conducted a series of attacks on Islamist militias’ positions in the eastern city of Benghazi. In late August, Egyptian and UAE warplanes attacked Islamist positions in and around Tripoli. Egypt’s growing direct military involvement in Libya has turned that country into yet another theater of a proxy war for broader regional battles, with Qatar and Turkey supporting the extremist Islamist militias while Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates backing the militias’ opponents. The growing Egyptian involvement is an indication that after two years of introspection and confusion, the moderate forces in the Arab world have begun to assert themselves in an effort to gain a measure of control over post-Arab Spring developments in the region.

  • Public safety networkPublic safety network failed to involve important constituencies in development phase

    A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress established the First Responder Network Authority(FirstNet), an agency tasked with creating a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety and emergency response officials. Currently, the nation’s 5.4 million first responders rely on commercial carriers to communicate and share critical information during emergencies. Analysts say that a failure to incorporate the public safety sector into the development phase of FirstNet set the new agency on a wrong path since its early days. The failure by FirstNet to involve its most important constituency — emergency responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and police officers – raises questions about the likely effectiveness of the network.

  • PrivacySocial media firms pledging to keep users anonymous still collect users’ information

    Social media firm Whisperprides itself on offering anonymity in a market where the biggest players are often considered too transparent. Its co-founder, Michael Heyward, a tech entrepreneur, describes the company as “the first completely anonymous social network,” an alternative to Facebookand Twitter. It now emerges that Whisper’s back-end systems that retain digital libraries of texts and photographs sent by users, and in some cases the location information of users.

  • HurricanesNew facility for hurricane research to study why some storms intensify so quickly

    It still astonishes meteorologists. In the span of just twenty-four hours, Hurricane Wilma, the twenty-second named storm of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, intensified from a tropical cyclone to a Category 5 hurricane — its wind speed soaring from 70 to 175 mph. As remarkable as Wilma’s rapid intensification was, however, it is not the only case of a storm muscling up at warp speed. As Hurricane Charley approached Florida’s west coast in 2004, its sustained winds jumped from 110 to 150 mph in only three hours. In 2007 Felix strengthened from a meager tropical depression to a Category 5 hurricane in fifty-one hours. This could all change soon now that the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has opened its Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex, a $50 million facility that houses a 38,000-gallon, 75-foot-long tank into which researchers pump seawater to study how the ocean and atmosphere interact — the critical air-sea interface that could tell us why some storms intensify so quickly.

  • African securityBoko Haram poses a serious challenge to the Nigerian government

    The sophistication of Boko Haram’s operations including the prison break, use of propaganda, and the bombing of key government buildings has led some analysts to suggest that the group might be gaining help from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or Somalia’s al-Shabaab; the Nigerian government, however, has yet to show any evidence of a connection between Boko Haram and other terrorist groups outside the country. Some Nigerian officials have already admitted that Boko Haram cannot be defeated on the battlefield. “Boko Haram (is) better armed and better motivated than our own troops,” Borno state governor Kashim Shettima said in February 2014. “Given the present state of affairs, it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram.”

  • Real IDMost states are complying with Real ID, but a few lag behind

    Forty U.S. states and some territories have adopted the Real ID Actrequirements for state driver’s licenses and identification cards, mandated by the federal government. Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington are still considered noncompliant as of October 2014. DHS announced a phased enforcement of the Real ID Act in 2013, and residents of non-complying states are already facing restrictions – such as having to present a passport or birth certificate in order to enter restricted areas in federal facilities or nuclear power plants. These restrictions will only tighten between now and January 2016.

  • China syndromeSale of NYC historic Waldorf Astoria hotel to Chinese firm worries U.S. security officials

    Citing an espionage risk, U.S. officials are expressing concern over the sale of the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City to a Chinese insurance company. The Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group purchased the property from Hilton Worldwide on 6 October for $1.95 billion. One clause in the sale contract, referring to “a major renovation,” has raised eye brows in Western security services. Specifically, they worry that renovations and modifications to the structure could accommodate Chinese eavesdropping and cyber espionage equipment.

  • AviationDesigning the air traffic control systems of tomorrow

    On a good day, flying can be a comfortable and efficient way to travel. All too often, however, eather or overcbooking can cause delays that ripple through the system, inducing missed flights, anxiety, discomfort and lots of lost time and money. Things had gotten so out of whack that in 2003, Congress enacted a law designed to bring online a Next Generation — or NextGen — air traffic control system by January 2020. The Department of Transportation would require the majority of aircraft operating within U.S. airspace to be equipped with new technology to track and coordinate aircraft and would institute many other programs to improve air travel.

  • Infrastructure protectionFloating cities increasingly attractive prospect in the face of sea level rise, floods

    More and more urban planners and disaster managers are asking the question: “Has the time come for floating cities?” Experts say thatin the face of climate change-driven sea level rise and shifting weather patterns poised seriously to impact many cities over the course of the next decades, the option of having cities that can accommodate shifting tides is making more and more sense.

  • FrackingHydraulic fracturing caused earthquakes in Ohio

    Hydraulic fracturing triggered a series of small earthquakes in 2013 on a previously unmapped fault in Harrison County, Ohio, according to a new study. This series of earthquakes is the first known instance of seismicity in the area. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method for extracting gas and oil from shale rock by injecting a high-pressure water mixture directed at the rock to release the gas inside. The process of hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into the rock under high pressure to create cracks. The process of cracking rocks results in micro- earthquakes.