Today's news

  • Infrastructure protectionGlobal warming skeptics unmoved by extreme weather

    What will it take to convince skeptics of global warming that the phenomenon is real? Surely, many scientists believe, enough droughts, floods, and heat waves will begin to change minds. A new study throws cold water on that theory. Winter 2012 was the fourth warmest winter in the United States dating back to at least 1895. Researchers found, however, that when it came to attributing the abnormally warm weather to global warming, respondents largely held fast to their existing beliefs and were not influenced by actual temperatures. This study and past research shows that political party identification plays a significant role in determining global warming beliefs. People who identify as Republican tend to doubt the existence of global warming, while Democrats generally believe in it.

  • In the trenchesNavy considering allowing sailors temporary leave before returning to active duty

    The U.S. Navy is considering allowing sailors to take temporary leave and return to active duty after earning degrees or working in the private sector. The plan would save the Navy money spent on training new sailors, while retaining experienced personnel for the long term.

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  • EpidemicsPublic health officials work to ensure that the lessons of Ebola are not forgotten

    Hospitals find it difficult to remain fully prepared for disease outbreaks because they rarely occur and preparation and frequent training are expensive. Public health professionals and infectious disease experts are working to ensure that lessons learned and protocols put in place in response to the Ebola outbreak will be used to prevent and respond to future virus and disease outbreaks.

  • ImmigrationTech industry disappointed with lack of details on visas for skilled foreigners

    Leaders of the U.S. tech industry hoped President Barack Obama’s recent immigration speech would unveil specifics on how his executive action on immigration would affect the number of highly skilled foreigners who would be granted American work visas. Instead, Obama just mentioned that he would “make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.”Since Obama did not announce specific plans for the H-1B visa program, tech industry leaders will now push for more congressional support – even though the House did not bring to a vote a bi-partisan Senate bill which would have increased visas for skilled workers to at least 115,000.

  • ImmigrationNew deportation approach targets convicted criminals, threats to national security

    Last Thursday, President Barack Obama announced the end of Secure Communitiesas part of his immigration reform strategy. The program was designed to identify deportable undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes, by allowing federal immigration agents to access fingerprint records collected at local jails. In many cases, agents requested local law enforcement officials to hold inmates beyond their jail terms until they could be transferred to federal custody. Obama has announced a new initiative — the Priority Enforcement Program— to target only undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of certain serious crimes or who pose danger to national security.

  • ISISU.S. anti-ISIS campaign hindered by lack of reliable intelligence sources on the ground

    U.S.-led airstrikes on the Islamic State (ISIS) and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria are hindered by a lack of credible intelligence sources on the ground, according to senior intelligence officials. “It’s a black hole,” one U.S. official saidaboutthe challenge of tracking terrorists and assessing casualties in a war zone limited to airstrikes. “We just don’t have the assets on the ground — that would have been one advantage of arming the Syrian moderates two years ago,” another expert said. “Syria is such a fluid environment, it would be very difficult to develop assets now.”

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  • CBPJames F. Tomscheck forced disabled veteran from CBP IA – Pt. 2

    By Robert Lee Maril

    While the details and implications of President Barack Obama’s immigration reforms continue to be closely scrutinized, an unprecedented scandal unfolds within the federal agency charged with providing security and control at our Mexican border. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), a law enforcement agency of 65,000 employees, is potentially facing alarming charges fostered by its former assistant director of Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs (CBP IA), James F. Tomscheck. Tomscheck, who turned federal whistleblower last summer, lambasted his superiors with multiple accusations. Allegations, however, have arisen against Tomscheck that he knowingly discriminated against a disabled military veteran within CBP IA, then fired him.

  • Offensive cyber operationsPentagon mulls “byte for a byte” cyber retaliatory operations

    Much has been made of the phrase “an eye for an eye” throughout history, and it is beginning to appear that the oft-used motto will extend to the new fields of cyber warfare as well.This “approach is something our adversaries will readily understand,” one analyst writes. “If they escalate, we escalate. They know they will lose because we have far more cyber resources to draw on than they have, and we can cause real harm if they mess with us.”

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  • DetectionNew terahertz device could strengthen security

    We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. Even after all the effort, we still wonder whether these procedures are making us any safer. Now a new type of security detection that uses terahertz radiation is looking to prove its promise. Able to detect explosives, chemical agents, and dangerous biological substances from safe distances, devices using terahertz waves could make public spaces more secure than ever.

  • Nuclear accidentsNew light shed on reactor fuel behavior during severe nuclear reactor accidents

    UO2 is the primary fuel component in the majority of existing nuclear reactors, but little is known about the molten state because of its extremely high melting point. Until now, the extremely high temperature and chemical reactivity of the melt have hindered studies of molten UO2. This lack of fundamental information has made it difficult to evaluate issues associated with the interaction of molten UO2 with a reactor’s zirconium cladding and steel containment vessel. A new discovery about the atomic structure of uranium dioxide will help scientists select the best computational model to simulate severe nuclear reactor accidents.

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  • DoomsdayArchitecture of doom: DIY planning for global catastrophe

    By Lee Stickells

    A thriving industry has grown up around planning for apocalypse, with the design and equipping of the ideal home as a key element. Discussion of survival retreat design focuses on issues such as strategic location, energy self-sufficiency, water supply, waste treatment, food production, and home security. Survivalists can easily be caricatured as lonely lunatics sitting on piles of freeze-dried food and exotic armaments in their foil-lined bunkers. Researchers say, however, that survivalism is rarely about extremist action. Rather, it is more often about tinkering with tools, exchanging ideas, and creative storytelling. We can see the design of the survival retreat as a wilder version of the more familiar impulse towards DIY and home renovation. Survivalists use these projects as a focus for developing the personal skills, knowledge, and praxis needed to embrace a radically changing world. Potential chaos and crisis are embraced as the opportunity for developing personal autonomy. Seen in this way, the survival retreat starts to seem to be an eccentric but understandable reaction. The challenge survivalism poses is thus not extremism. Survivalists tend to privilege privatized, self-regulated, individualist modes of living – but exit from the grid challenges the collective infrastructures that have been so vital to more equitable urban environments. What, then, of our public networks such as water, electricity, transport, and telecommunications? What of our common urban future?

  • Critical infrastructureNSA director: China and “one or two” other nations can damage U.S. critical infrastructure

    Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command, told lawmakers yesterday that China and “one or two” other countries are capable of mounting cyberattacks which would paralyze the U.S electric grid and other critical infrastructure systems across the country. A cyberattacks of such scope has been discussed in the past – it was even dubbed a “cyber Pearl Harbor” – but Rogers was the first high official to confirm that such a crippling attack on the United States was not a mere speculation. Rogers said U.S. adversaries are conducting electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they will be well-positioned to damage and disrupt the industrial control systems which run chemical facilities, nuclear power plants, water treatment facilities, dams, and much more.

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  • China syndromeSecurity concerns over purchase of Waldorf Astoria by Chinese company

    Citing 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 sale of the hotel will likely lead to a review by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) of the Chinese firm’s long-term plans for the site and the finer details of the sale. “Because the agreement calls for major renovations to the hotel, CFIUS will be worried that the Chinese could engage in some form of espionage,” said a former Treasury Department official who managed CFIUS reviews.

  • CybersecurityNew study shows people ignore online warnings

    You are your own worst enemy when it comes to online security. Say you ignored one of those “this Web site is not trusted” warnings and it led to your computer being hacked. How would you react? Would you: (A) Quickly shut down your computer? (B) Yank out the cables? (C) Scream in cyber terror? Researchers report that that for a group of college students participating in a research experiment, all of the above were true. These gut reactions (and more) happened when a trio of researchers simulated hacking into study participants’ personal laptops.

  • Public healthPre-empting flu evolution may make for better vaccines

    Influenza is a notoriously difficult virus against which to vaccinate. There are many different strains circulating — both in human and animal populations — and these strains themselves evolve rapidly. Yet manufacturers, who need to produce around 350 million doses ahead of the annual flu season, must know which strain to put in the vaccine months in advance — during which time the circulating viruses can evolve again. An international team of researchers has shown that it may be possible to improve the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine by “pre-empting” the evolution of the influenza virus.

  • Coastal infrastructureChina’s second “great wall” is not so great

    China’s coastal regions are only 13 percent of the country’s land area, but contribute 60 percent of its gross domestic product. With that come layers of incentives to turn lush wetlands into engines of development and industry. A new study finds that China’s second great wall, a vast seawall covering more than half of the country’s mainland coastline, is a foundation for financial gain - and also a dyke holding a swelling rush of ecological woes.

  • STEM educationNew, updated resource on STEM education, workforce

    It just became a lot easier for educators, students, parents, policymakers and business leaders to learn more about national trends in education and jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The National Science Board (NSB) last month released an interactive, online resource featuring new and updated data and graphics about STEM education and workforce in the United States and providing facts on topics such as student proficiency, college degrees in STEM fields, and jobs in science-related occupations.

  • WaterSelling and buying water rights

    Trying to sell or buy water rights can be a complicated exercise. First, it takes time and effort for buyers and sellers to find each other, a process that often relies on word-of-mouth, local bulletin boards, even calling friends and neighbors to get the word out. Then they must deal with the maze of rules and regulations involved. Finally, they must reach a fair price. It would be much easier if a computer could do it. Now, one can. Scientists have developed an algorithm that can match potential buyers and sellers, sift through the complexity of local physical and regulatory systems, and reach a fair deal designed especially for them.

  • TerrorismU.S. tracking 150 people who travelled to Syria – some of them “to fight” in ISIS ranks

    U.S. law enforcement agencies are tracking about 150 people who traveled from the United States to Syria in recent months, “a significant number of them to fight,” FBI director James Comey told reporters at a briefing in Boston on Tuesday. The number of Americans who traveled to the Middle East to join the Islamic State (ISIS) is higher than figures mentioned earlier by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement of Americans who actually joined ISIS ranks. Last month, Comey said the FBI was aware of “a dozen or so” Americans fighting in Syria “on the side of the terrorists” – and he repeated that number on Tuesday, adding that the total number of travelers under surveillance is ten times that.

  • TerrorismRAND study assesses threat posed by Americans joining jihadist fronts abroad

    Although it is difficult to pin down the exact numbers of Western fighters slipping off to join the jihadist fronts in Syria and Iraq – the number is estimated to be around 100 — U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that those fighters pose a clear and present danger to American security. Some of these fighters will be killed in the fighting, some will choose to remain in the Middle East, but some will return, more radicalized than before and determined to continue their violent campaigns back in the United States.

  • Middle EastJerusalem attacks are no isolated incident: the third intifada is here

    By Asaf Siniver

    The attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in which four Jewish worshippers were killed and eight were injured has sparked new fears that fighting between Israel and Palestinian could flare up once more. The attack, by two Palestinians carrying meat cleavers and a gun, has the potential to kick off fresh religious confrontation and a third intifada. In the first intifada of 1987, the Palestinians rose up against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for the first time. The 2000 intifada followed a failed peace process. But this intifada is not being fought over territory or negotiating positions. It is a religious conflict that is bubbling up as a result of contrasting claims to sovereignty over the Holy City of Jerusalem. This intractable conflict has long been defined by issues such as the future of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the fate of Palestinian refugees. Now the added burden of more religious tensions is certain to condemn the people of the Holy Land to many more years of bloodshed.

  • National labsSandia’s Cooperative Monitoring Center: 20 years of work supporting international security agreements

    Sandia National Laboratories’ Cooperative Monitoring Center (CMC) is celebrating its twentieth anniversary of promoting the principles of cooperation and the value of technology in support of international security agreements. Since it was established in 1994, the CMC has worked to address security issues by bringing together policy and technical experts from different nations; showing participants how to use technology and confidence-building measures to solve regional and global security concerns; and creating institutions to promote security in regions around the world.