• SurveillanceNSA’s bulk metadata collection program ends

    The NSA on Sunday ended its controversial surveillance program, initiated by the George W. Bush administration in 2006, which collected the metadata of all communications in the United States. The creation of the bulk collection program was the result of criticism by the 9/11 Commission, and many security experts, who argued that the information about the nineteen 9/11 terrorists was available, but that law enforcement and intelligence agencies lacked structure and procedure which would have allowed them to “connect the dots.”

  • Border controlMore than 500 travelers to U.S. flagged daily for “national security concerns”

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data show that every day, hundreds of travelers going through airports, seaports, and land border crossings are flagged for “suspected national security concerns.” In 2014, the average daily number of those flagged for national security concerns was 548.

  • SyriaIsrael-Russia communication: Straying Russian plane avoid being shot down

    Israel defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, on Sunday told reporters that a Russian jet recently entered Israeli airspace but was not shot down because Israel and Russia had established an effective open communication system between the two countries. Ya’alon said the plane, by mistake, entered about one mile into Israeli airspace and immediately turned around back to Syria when the Russians were notified.

  • SyriaTurkey’s, Russia’s official versions of jet shoot down scientifically impossible: Physicists

    Two astrophysicists show that the official versions of both Turkey and Russia about the circumstances surrounding the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet over Turkey should be taken with a grain of salt. Turkey’s insists that the Russian jet flew over Turkish territory for 17 seconds, but this is contradicted by the video of the shooting provided by the Turkish military. Russia’s claims that the jet made a 90-dgree turn in order to avoid Turkish airspace does “not correspond to the laws of mechanics.”

  • Law enforcementWhy do American cops kill so many compared to European cops?

    By Paul Hirschfield

    Last week, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with the first-degree murder of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old African American. In October 2014, Van Dyke shot sixteen bullets into McDonald – fifteen of them after McDonald was already lying dying on the pavement. Van Dyke is an extreme example of a pattern of unnecessary deadly force used by U.S. police. Historic rates of fatal police shootings in Europe suggest that American police in 2014 were eighteen times more lethal than Danish police and 100 times more lethal than Finnish police, plus they killed significantly more frequently than police in France, Sweden, and other European countries. Explanations of elevated police lethality in the United States should focus on more than police policy and behavior. The charged encounters that give rise to American deadly force also result from weak gun controls, social and economic deprivation and injustice, inadequate mental health care, and an intense desire on the part of those pursued by the police to avoid harsh imprisonment. Future research should examine not only whether American police behave differently than European police, but also whether more generous, supportive, and therapeutic policies in Europe ensure that fewer people become desperate enough to summon, provoke, or resist their less dangerous police.

  • Chemical safetyChemical safety board may put new investigations on hold while it reboots

    Under new leadership, the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is hitting the reset button to put its embattled past behind it. The federal agency charged with investigating and issuing recommendations on chemical accidents wants to set an ambitious timeline for completing reports, but doing so will require a hold on new cases.

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  • Nuclear wasteRock salt serving to store nuclear waste may not be as impermeable as previously thought

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, stores low-level nuclear waste in salt beds beneath the ground. For decades there has been a proposal to build a permanent central repository under Nevada’s Yucca Mountains. This has renewed interest in rock salt as an alternative permanent storage solution for high-level nuclear waste. Researchers found that rock salt, used not only by the United States, but also by Germany, as a subsurface container for radioactive waste, might not be as impermeable as thought, or as capable of isolating nuclear waste from groundwater in the event that a capsule or storage vessel failed.

  • Emerging threatsParis pledges, if implemented and followed, can avert severe climate change

    More than 190 countries are meeting in Paris this week to create a durable framework for addressing climate change and to implement a process to reduce greenhouse gases over time. A key part of this agreement would be the pledges made by individual countries to reduce their emissions. Scientists say that if implemented and followed by measures of equal or greater ambition, the Paris pledges have the potential to reduce the probability of the highest levels of warming, and increase the probability of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

  • ISISU.K. details strategy to defeat ISIS, remove Assad, rebuild and stabilize Syria

    The U.K. government on Thursday released a 36-page dossier offering detailed arguments why it would be militarily, legally, and morally right for Britain to join the U.S.-led coalition in attacking ISIS targets in Syria. The document was released ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech at the House of Commons in which he called on all House members to vote for allowing the campaign. Cameroon said that ISIS posed a “very direct threat to our country and our way of life” and that inaction by the United Kingdom posed even greater risks for the country.

  • ISISFrance: Syrian government troops to help fight ISIS only after Assad’s removal

    Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, said earlier Friday that troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad could be employed in the fight against ISIS, but only as part of a political transition framework in Syria which will not include President Bashar al-Assad. Fabius’s comments highlight the fact that Thursday’s meeting between Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin has failed to bridge the differences between France and Russia with regard to the war in Syria.

  • Airport securityMan uses stolen boarding pass to get through Utah airport security

    A man who had stolen a boarding pass which was left by mistake on a Southwest Airline counter, managed to get through airport security in Salt Lake City, but was stopped at a gate for a flight to California. The attendants at the boarding gate became suspicious since the woman for whom the boarding pass was printed had been given a replacement pas and had already checked in.

  • ForensicsNew technique can tell whether a fingerprint belongs to a male or female

    Culprits beware: researchers are taking crime scene fingerprint identification to a new level. They have discovered a straightforward concept for identifying whether a culprit is male or female. It is based on the content in fingerprints — specifically amino acids. Amino acid levels in the sweat of females are about twice as high as in males. There is also a slightly different distribution, due mostly to hormonal differences. The same is true for amino acids left behind in fingerprints.

  • DronesNew partnership to advance unmanned systems research, pilot testing

    Indiana State University and Raleigh, North Carolina-based PrecisionHawk have signed a research and development partnership that aims to advance the unmanned aerial systems industry from multidisciplinary perspectives. The collaboration will focus on safety, education, training, and algorithm development for PrecisionHawk’s DataMapper aerial data software.

  • FirefightingNew sensors detect cable fire before it starts burning

    Fires are frequently caused by smoldering cables. New sensors now help detect such smoldering fires at an early stage by analyzing the plastic vapors released by overheated insulating cables. Scientists have developed these hybrid sensors that combine measurement processes with data evaluation. These detect the gases released from the plastic coating due to heating and reliably identify and analyze the gas mixture and its concentration.

  • Emerging threatsGlobal climate shift in the 1980s largest in 1,000 years

    Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fueled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research. Scientists say that a major step change, or “regime shift,” in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from the Arctic to Antarctica, was centered around 1987. The scientists document a range of associated events caused by the shift, from a 60 percent increase in winter river flow into the Baltic Sea to a 400 percent increase in the average duration of wildfires in the Western United States. It also suggests that climate change is not a gradual process, but one subject to sudden increases, with the 1980s shift representing the largest in an estimated 1,000 years.

  • EnergyStoring renewable energy underground for a reliable, affordable national grid

    A common criticism of a total transition to renewable energy — wind, water, and solar power — is that the U.S. electrical grid cannot affordably store enough standby electricity to keep the system stable. Researchers propose an underground solution to that problem. The researchers use data from single-state calculations of the number of wind, water, and solar generators potentially needed in each state to show that these installations can theoretically result in a reliable, affordable national grid when the generators are combined with inexpensive storage and “demand response” — a program in which utilities give customers incentives to control times of peak demand.

  • European securityEC chief: After Paris attacks, Schengen agreement is “comatose”

    Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has admitted that in the wake of the Paris attacks, the Schengen agreement is “comatose” and warned that the euro will not survive without it. Françoise Schepmans, the mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek, received a list with the names of more than eighty suspected jihadists living in the area just one month before the Paris attacks.

  • Guns & terrorismNYPD commissioner to Congress: Do not allow people on terror watch list to buy guns

    NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton the other day called on Congress today to “start getting serious” about fixing the loophole which allows individuals on the U.S. terror watch list legally to purchase firearms in the United States. Bratton said: “If Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watch list, those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country. I’m more worried about them than I am about Syrian refugees.”

  • Terrorism appN.Y. State Police app helps citizens report suspicious activity

    The New York State Police is urging citizens to download a new digital app which allows citizens to capture and report suspicious activity with their smart phones. The app is part of the “See Something, Send Something” campaign which aims to turn willing citizens into the eyes and ears of law enforcement. For example, if a citizen notices an unattended package at a train station of an airport, they could use the app to alert law enforcement.

  • EncryptionTech companies: weakening encryption would only help the bad guys

    Leading technology companies — Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Twitter, Facebook, and fifty-six other technology companies — have joined forces to campaign against weakening end-to-end encryption, insisting that any weakening of encryption would be “exploited by the bad guys.” Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook recently asserted that “any backdoor is a backdoor for everyone.”

  • SurveillanceAfter Paris, it’s traditional detective work that will keep us safe, not mass surveillance

    By Pete Fussey

    Before the dust has even settled from the attacks on Paris, familiar calls for greater surveillance powers are surfacing. The desire for greater security is understandable, but that doesn’t mean we should suspend our judgement on the measures proposed to bring it about. It’s widely accepted that intelligence work is the most effective form of counter-terrorism, and that the best intelligence comes from community engagement, not coercion. So we must be wary of the evangelism of those pushing technological solutions to security problems, and the political clamor for mass surveillance.

  • BioterrorismU.S. bioterrorism detection program unreliable: GAO

    DHS’s BioWatch program aims to provide early indication of an aerosolized biological weapon attack. Until April 2014, DHS pursued a next-generation autonomous detection technology (Gen-3), which aimed to enable collection and analysis of air samples in less than six hours, unlike the current system (Gen-2), which requires manual intervention and can take up to thirty-six hours to detect the presence of biological pathogens. A GAO report found that DHS lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack, and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system.