• The Russian connectionThe dangers of weaponized narratives, and how to respond to them

    Criticism of Facebook began last week after a news report said the social network enabled advertisers to seek out self-described anti-Semites and, revealed this week, published Russian-bought divisive political ads. The company responded by saying that it would restrict how advertisers targeted their audiences and actively work with the U.S. government on its Russian-interference investigations. Google also came under fire at the same time after news that it allowed the sale of ads tied to racist and bigoted keywords. Google responded by claiming it would work harder to halt offensive ads. Weaponized narrative is the new global battle space, one expert said: “America and other Western democracies — and indeed the very Enlightenment — are under attack.”

  • Fake newsCountering misinformation and correcting “fake news”

    It is no use simply telling people they have their facts wrong. To be more effective at correcting misinformation in news accounts and intentionally misleading “fake news,” you need to provide a detailed counter-message with new information—and get your audience to help develop a new narrative. A new study, the first conducted with this collection of debunking data, finds that a detailed counter-message is better at persuading people to change their minds than merely labeling misinformation as wrong. But even after a detailed debunking, misinformation still can be hard to eliminate, the study finds.

  • view counter
  • TransportationSoft target, hard problem: Keeping surface transportation secure

    Maintaining security on the U.S. surface transportation systems takes significant resources and manpower, both which tend to be in short supply. What if there were a way to detect potential threats in bags or on persons from the moment they entered the subway? What if there was a way to know the path individuals take as they move through the system, and to relay that information to transit police in real-time?

  • Flesh-eating bacteriaFlesh-eating parasites come closer, but a vaccine against them does, too

    Parasites that ulcerate the skin, can disfigure the face, and can fatally mutilate internal organs are creeping closer to the southern edges of the United States. No vaccine is yet available against Leishmania — the second-deadliest parasites in the world, topped only by malaria — but researchers have now come closer to changing that. A new experimental vaccine has immunized laboratory mice that were genetically altered to mimic the human immune system. The vaccine exploits a weakness in Leishmania’s tricky chemical camouflage, which normally hides it from the victim’s disease-fighting cells, to trigger a forceful immune response against the parasite.

  • BiothreatsNose spray treatment for cyanide poisoning

    The first nose spray treatment for the life-threatening effects of cyanide poisoning will be developed under an agreement between HHS and Response and Emergent BioSolutions of Gaithersburg, Maryland. The treatment is needed because cyanide could be used as a chemical weapon against the United States, according to the agency.

  • HurricanesImproving forecasts of hurricane strength

    As Hurricane Irma approached U.S. shores, researchers sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) were using air-dropped autonomous sensors to compile real-time ocean observations to help forecasters predict the strength of future tropical storms. This marked the first time a new, specialized version of the sensors—called ALAMO (Air-Launched Autonomous Micro Observer) sensors—was being used in hurricane-prediction research.

  • Considered opinionThe Madman Theory of North Korea

    By Steven Coll

    By the fall of 1969, President Richard Nixon had become increasingly frustrated with the refusal of North Vietnam to engage in meaningful negotiations with the United States. He believed that the Soviet Union was the only country able to persuade the North Vietnamese leadership to be forthcoming – but how do you get the Kremlin to apply pressure on North Vietnam? Nixon’s idea: To convince Leonid Brezhnev that Nixon was a madman, capable of irrational action. Has President Donald Trump revived the Madman Theory in order to deal with North Korea’s nukes?

  • Our picksRussian meddling in German election; predicting earthquakes; border deaths, and more

    • #ElectionWatch: German fringe media targets Russian social media platform
    • We know where the next big earthquakes will happen — but not when
    • After Charlottesville, the American far right is tearing itself apart
    • Alternative for Germany strikes fear in the hearts of Germans
    • After Hurricane Irma, many ask: How safe are shelters?
    • Earthquake early warning in Mexico reminds California what it still lacks
    • After the storm: Insurance agents E&O lessons learned
    • Why do border deaths persist when the number of border crossings is falling?

  • The Iranian connection Israel shot down Iranian-supplied Hezbollah drone in border area

    Israel has shot down what an Iranian-supplied Hezbollah drone as it was about to cross the Syrian border into Israel. Analysts note that Hezbollah launched the drone only hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to address the UN General Assembly. In his speech he is expected to highlight the destabilizing consequences of Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East. “We have seen a significant recent rise in [Hezbollah’s] drone capability,” an Israeli military source said.

  • The Iranian connection Argentinian prosecutor to review mounting forensic evidence that proves Nisman was murdered

    An Argentinian prosecutor will assess the findings of a group of forensic analysts who discovered more evidence indicating that Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered. Nisman, who investigated the ties between Iran and the July 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, as well as a cover up by the previous Argentine government of Iran’s role in the attack, was found dead with a bullet wound to the head in January 2015. His death came hours before he was scheduled to appear before a closed session of the Argentinian Congress.

  • CybersecurityThe security of fitness trackers could – and should – be improved

    The security of wearable fitness trackers could be improved to better protect users’ personal data, a new study suggests. Vulnerabilities in the devices – which track heart rate, steps taken and calories burned – could threaten the privacy and security of the data they record, scientists say.

  • Crime fightingDHS funds national consortium to develop better methods for fighting criminal activity

    The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been named a priority partner in a new DHS-funded national consortium. SHS S&T S&T) will award the consortium a $3.85 million grant for its first operating year in a 10-year grant period to create the Center of Excellence for Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis (CINA). The center’s research will focus on criminal network analysis, dynamic patterns of criminal activity, forensics, and criminal investigative processes.

  • AnthraxCleaning up subways after release of biological warfare agent such as anthrax

    If you’re like most people, you don’t spend much time thinking about what would happen if anthrax was released into your local subway system. But Sandia Lab engineer Mark Tucker has spent much of the past twenty years thinking about incidents involving chemical or biological warfare agents, and the best ways to clean them up. Tucker’s current project focuses on cleaning up a subway system after the release of a biological warfare agent such as anthrax.

  • Emergency communicationNo internet? No problem: Improving communications during natural disasters

    Storms like Hurricane Irma and other natural disasters bring with them lots of uncertainty: where will they go, how much damage will they cause. What is certain is that no matter where they strike, natural disasters knock out power. And no power means no internet for thousands of people in affected areas. Researchers are proposing a new way of gathering and sharing information during natural disasters that does not rely on the internet.

  • Climate threatsLimiting warming to 1.5°C still possible

    Significant emission reductions are required if we are to achieve one of the key goals of the Paris Agreement, and limit the increase in global average temperatures to 1.5°C; scientists say. A new study, investigating the geophysical likelihood of limiting global warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C,” concluded L limiting the increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C, the goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, is not yet geophysically impossible, but likely requires more ambitious emission reductions than those pledged so far.

  • Considered opinionNo, we cannot shoot down North Korea’s missiles

    By Joe Cirincione

    The number one reason we don’t shoot down North Korea’s missiles is that we cannot. The latest North Korean missile to fly over Japan did so at 475 miles over Japan at the apogee of its flight path. Neither Japan nor the United States could have intercepted the missile. None of the U.S. theater ballistic missile defense weapons in existence can reach that high. It is hundreds of kilometers too high for the Aegis interceptors deployed on Navy ships off Japan. Even higher for the THAAD systems in South Korea and Guam. Way too high for the Patriot systems in Japan, which engage largely within the atmosphere.

  • Our picksISIS killer drones; economics of migration; Cuba’s sonic weapons, and more

    • Moscow takes U.S. meddling tactics to German vote
    • The U.S. may close its embassy in Cuba after possible sonic weapon attacks
    • 100 years after the lethal 1918 flu pandemic, we are still vulnerable
    • Time has come: ISIS improvising own killer drones
    • The economics of immigration
    • This Department is the last hideout of climate change believers in Donald Trump’s government
    • Is Russia practicing a dry run for an invasion of Belarus?
    • No nuclear weapon is safe from cyberattacks

  • Disaster costEconomic costs of Harvey, Irma $200-$300 billion; insured cost to reach $70 billion

    The insured cost of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is likely to reach $70 billion, while the economic cost — which includes uninsured losses – is in the range of $200 billion to $300 billion, leading insurers say. Lloyd’s of London said the claims would make 2017 one of the worst years for natural disasters with the hurricane season not yet over.

  • ISISEconomic decay within Islamic State

    A new report paints a bleak picture of economic life under the Islamic State. The report’s authors estimate that the Islamic State contributed to a 23 percent reduction in the GDP of cities under its control, based on novel applications of satellite-derived data.

  • IslamophobiaIslamophobia: racism mixed with cultural intolerance, not merely religious bias

    Islamophobia represents a form of racism mixed with cultural intolerance as a whole, rather than simply intolerance of Muslims and Islam, according to a new study. The author refutes the argument that Islamophobia is a form of religious bias that oppresses U.S. Muslims on the grounds that Islam is nefarious and antithetical to American values. “We often hear that because Muslims are not a race, people cannot be racist for attacking Muslims,” Rice University’s Craig Considine says. “This argument does not stack up. It is a simplistic way of thinking that overlooks the role that race plays in Islamophobic hate crimes.”

  • Extremists & social mediaCan taking down websites really stop terrorists and hate groups?

    By Thomas Holt, Joshua D. Freilich, and Steven Chermak

    Racists and terrorists, and many other extremists, have used the internet for decades and adapted as technology evolved, shifting from text-only discussion forums to elaborate and interactive websites, custom-built secure messaging systems and even entire social media platforms. Recent efforts to deny these groups online platforms will not kick hate groups, nor hate speech, off the web. In fact, some scholars theorize that attempts to shut down hate speech online may cause a backlash, worsening the problem and making hate groups more attractive to marginalized and stigmatized people, groups, and movements. The tech industry, law enforcement, and policymakers must develop a more measured and coordinated approach to the removal of extremist and terrorist content online. The only way to really eliminate this kind of online content is to decrease the number of people who support it.

  • GridCircuit simulation methods protect the power grid

    In December 2015, Russian hackers pummeled Ukraine’s power grid, disrupting the flow of electricity for nearly a quarter-million Ukrainians. Then, in December 2016, roughly a year after the first attack, the hackers struck again. But this time, they targeted an electric transmission station in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Each cyberattack lasted no more than six hours, but security experts were still alarmed: hackers had just demonstrated their ability to infiltrate the grid and drastically alter the flow of society. Americans began to worry. If hackers could target Ukraine, then what would stop them from targeting other countries in western Europe or even the United States?