• Food securityNOAA-funded effort to better predict droughts

    On average, droughts cost an estimated $9 billion in damages every year in the United States, according to NOAA. A single drought in 2012, which spread across the U.S. and brought very dry conditions to Michigan, caused some $32 billion in damage nationwide, mostly due to widespread harvest failure. Scientists work to develop a better system to predict droughts.

  • BiometricsDNA techniques could transform facial recognition technology

    By Jean-Christophe Nebel

    Camera-based visual surveillance systems were supposed to deliver a safer and more secure society. But despite decades of development, they are generally not able to handle real-life situations. During the 2011 London riots, for example, facial recognition software contributed to just one arrest out of the 4,962 that took place. The failure of this technology means visual surveillance still relies mainly on people sitting in dark rooms watching hours of camera footage, which is totally inadequate to protect people in a city. But recent research suggests video analysis software could be dramatically improved thanks to software advances made in a completely different field: DNA sequence analysis. By treating video as a scene that evolves in the same way DNA does, these software tools and techniques could transform automated visual surveillance.

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  • Our picksTwitter & Russia probe; white supremacists’ violence; what happened in Niger, and mores

    · Twitter gives just a sliver of data to senate Russia probe

    · 3 white supremacists arrested in Florida for shooting at anti-racism protesters

    · Take the president’s finger off the nuclear button

    · The boomtown that shouldn’t exist

    · Government must allow abortion access for migrant girl, judge rules

    ·What happened in Niger?

  • GunsWhy is there so little research on guns in the U.S.? 5 questions answered

    By Lacey Wallace

    Like other recent mass shootings, the events in Las Vegas were quickly followed by demands for change to gun control policy. But which policy do we choose? Following the Las Vegas shooting, debate has focused on bump stocks, accessories that allow a semiautomatic weapon to fire more rapidly. Will restrictions on them help prevent another mass shooting? Is there a better policy option? Unfortunately, the research we need to answer these questions doesn’t exist – and part of the problem is that the federal government largely doesn’t support it. Without increased funding for gun research, it will be extremely difficult for researchers to provide accurate answers to the gun policy questions currently under debate.

  • Mass shootingMass killings happen randomly, but rate has remained steady

    Mass killings may have increasing news coverage, but the events themselves have happened at a steady rate for more than a decade, according to a new study. In the first ten months of 2016 — between 1 January 2016 and 4 October 2016 — there were 323 mass shooting incidents in the United States (mass shooting incidents are those in which four or more people are killed). Furthermore, some types of mass-killing events seem to occur randomly over time, making prediction difficult and response crucial.

  • The Russian connectionForeign cyberattacks, disinformation “should never be downplayed or tolerated”: George W. Bush

    Former President George W. Bush said earlier today (Thursday) that the United States should not downplay Russia’s attempts to meddle in the U.S. election. Bush said that “the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systemic, and stealthy. It’s conducted a range of stealthy media platforms.” Bush’s remarks were a shot against President Donald Trump, who has dismissed the incontrovertible evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as “a hoax” and “fake news.”

  • TerrorismFormer foreign minister testifies in Argentinian terror cover-up probe

    The former Argentinian foreign minister Hector Timerman testified in court on Tuesday under the allegations that Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s administration conspired with Iran to hide the Islamic Republic’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The judicial investigation is based on the complaint of the late Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman that Kirchner sought a secret deal with Iran in connection with the 1994 bombing.

  • AgroterrorismAnimal agriculture in U.S. increasingly threatened

    The increasing rate of emerging and reemerging animal diseases, along with threats and attempts by those with nefarious intent to attack food and agriculture, point to the need to reduce the biological risk to America’s food and agricultural sector. That is the finding of a new report released Tuesday by the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.

  • SuperbugsHeading off the post-antibiotic age

    Worldwide deaths from antibiotic-resistant bugs could rise more than tenfold by 2050 if steps aren’t taken to head off their spread. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned of the danger of a “post-antibiotic age,” tracing the spread of antibiotic resistance to rampant overprescribing, to the widespread use of the drugs to promote livestock growth, and to the relative trickle of new drugs being developed as possible replacements.

  • SurveillanceFor $1000, anyone can purchase mobile advertising to track your location, app use

    Privacy concerns have long swirled around how much information online advertising networks collect about people’s browsing, buying and social media habits — typically to sell you something. But could someone use mobile advertising to learn where you go for coffee? Could a burglar establish a sham company and send ads to your phone to learn when you leave the house? Could a suspicious employer see whether you’re using shopping apps on work time? The answer is yes, at least in theory.

  • First respondersBattling fires increases firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens

    The threat of getting burned by roaring flames is an obvious danger of firefighting, but other health risks are more subtle. For example, firefighters have been found to develop cancer at higher rates than the general population. Now researchers have measured how much firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens and other harmful compounds increases when fighting fires.

  • Our picksHaley: Russian meddling is “warfare”; demand for terrorism insurance; Chad & travel ban, and more

    · Nikki Haley on Russia meddling: Election interference is ‘warfare’

    · 4 signs that Trump’s furious efforts to save coal are futile

    · Cybersecurity is changing the way leaders behave

    · Terrorism insurance in demand for concerts following Las Vegas attack

    · Saudi Arabia, home of Islam, will start policing Prophet Muhammad’s teachings to stop terrorism

    · EU introduces new measures to combat ‘low-tech’ terrorism

    · Office supply glitch? How Chad wound up on travel ban

  • CybersecurityNorth Korea sent spear phishing emails to U.S. electric companies

    Cybersecurity firm FireEye says it can confirm that the company’s devices detected and stopped spear phishing emails sent on 22 September 2017 to U.S. electric companies by “known cyber threat actors likely affiliated with the North Korean government.” The activity was early-stage reconnaissance, and not necessarily indicative of an imminent, disruptive cyberattack that might take months to prepare if it went undetected (judging from past experiences with other cyber threat groups).

  • The Russian connection“Our task was to set Americans against their own government”: Russian troll-farm operative

    New information about the operation of a Russian “troll farm” and its role in Russia’s disinformation dissemination system, sheds new light on Russia’s broad effort to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential race. The fake stories and false news created and disseminated to millions of American voters by the operatives at the Internet Research Agency (IRA), in the words of an IRA operative, aimed to “rock the boat” on divisive issues like race relations, gun control, immigration, and LGBT rights. The IRA also used the internet to hire 100 American activists to hold 40 rallies in different U.S. cities. These activists did not know they were working for a Russian government agency, and the people who came to the rallies were unaware that they were taking part in Russian-organized and financed events.

  • The Russian connectionWhy are Russian media outlets hyping the Mueller investigation?

    By Cynthia Hooper

    Four major Russia investigations are underway in Washington, along with at least six related federal inquiries. Russia’s most popular media outlets compare the investigations to those of the McCarthy era, calling them “witch hunts” focused on a “phantom menace.” Amid all the emphasis of “Russophobia run wild,” however, Russian media coverage seems to have become more positive in regard to one issue: The Justice Department’s investigation led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. While state-sponsored outlets continue to deny any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, they’ve begun to applaud Mueller’s efforts to look into the past business deals of the U.S. president and his team. In affirming the U.S. investigation into Trump’s business practices, Kremlin strategists can co-opt the charges of Putin’s critics and direct them at Trump. They can argue that the U.S. is neither more virtuous than Russia nor more efficacious. And they can do so without having to acknowledge that a Mueller-style investigation into top-level government malfeasance would never be allowed in their own country today.

  • EncryptionUnbreakable encrypted messages

    Researchers recently announced a landmark advancement: They used a satellite orbiting Earth to beam pairs of quantum-entangled photons to two Tibetan mountaintops more than 700 miles apart. This distance blew the previous record out of the water. The researchers say this is only the beginning for quantum communication.

  • DetectionFashionable detector-on-a-ring detects chemical, biological threats

    Wearable sensors are revolutionizing the tech-world, capable of tracking processes in the body, such as heart rates. They’re even becoming fashionable, with many of them sporting sleek, stylish designs. But wearable sensors also can have applications in detecting threats that are external to the body.

  • Biothreats$300K challenge to uncover emerging biothreats

    DHS S&T has launched the Hidden Signals Challenge, a $300,000 prize competition that seeks concepts for novel uses of existing data to uncover emerging biothreats. The Challenge calls upon data innovators from a wide variety of fields to develop concepts that will identify signals and achieve timelier alerts for biothreats in our cities and communities.

  • PlaguePlague total grows in Madagascar: WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) said in an update on Madagascar’s plague outbreak that the number of infections as of Saturday has climbed to 684, an increase of 297 cases since its last update on 9 October. Also, health officials in Seychelles are closely monitoring eleven people in hospital isolation, a step that follows the announcement late last week of a probable imported case in a man who had traveled to Madagascar.

  • PlagueMadagascar travelers bring plague to Seychelles

    The Seychelles Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday reported an imported plague case in a 34-year-old man who had travelled to Madagascar and had been under passive surveillance since he arrived. Air Seychelles has cancelled all flights to and from Madagascar, and members of a basketball team who were under surveillance at a center have been discharged after none of them came down with symptoms.

  • Rail safetyConcerns about safety of rail transport of energy liquids, gases

    The U.S. increased production of crude oil, natural gas, and corn-based ethanol created unforeseen demands and safety challenges on their long-distance transportation via pipelines, tank barges, and railroad tank cars. A debate is underway about whether the domestic energy revolution was placing stress on the transportation system that would sacrifice safety.  

  • Our picksPower companies & wildfires; EMP attacks; battle after ISIS, and more

    · Health security is a crisis. And you can’t negotiate with a disease

    · Could a power company be responsible for the California wine country fires?

    · The Trump administration has no plan for dealing with a North Korean EMP attack

    · The Battles After ISIS

    · North Korean official: No diplomacy until our missiles can reach U.S.

    · Homeland Security tells federal agencies to secure email now!