Today's news

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 17Israel destroys al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City; cabinet considering expansion of Gaza operations

    Seven days ago, on 17 July 2014, we reported that one of the first targets on the first day of the attack was al-Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza City. As is the case with other hospitals in Gaza, Hamas used the facility to store rockets and other arms and shelter Hamas fighters, who also use the hospitals’ upper floors for snipers to shoot at IDF soldiers and for rocket launching – some witnessed by a Financial Times reporter. In the case of al-Wafa, the hospital also served Hamas as a command-and-control center. Yesterday (Wednesday), Israel decided that enough was enough, and that allowing Hamas fighters the freedom to operate behind the patients and staff at the hospital, located in central Gaza City, posed too much of a risk for Israeli forces, and Israel Air Force (IAF) planes finished the destruction of the hospital. A series of powerful secondary explosions proved that the hospital served Hamas for arms storage. The Israeli cabinet is meeting this morning to consider the expansion of the ground war.

  • Industrial pollutionExtensive corrosion found at chemical tanks of W.Va. site which contaminated region

    Investigators by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have reported that they detected significant corrosion in MCHM chemical storage tanks at the Freedom Industries site responsible for a 9 January contamination of the Elk River which has impacted over 300,000 residents of the area.

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  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 16Israel destroys al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City; cabinet considering expansion of Gaza operations

    Six days ago, on 17 July 2014, we reported that one of the first targets on the first day of the attack was al-Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza City. As is the case with other hospitals in Gaza, Hamas used the facility to store rockets and other arms. Hamas fighters also use the hospitals’ upper floors for snipers shooting at IDF soldiers. Earlier today (Wednesday), Israel decided that enough was enough, and that allowing Hamas fighters the freedom to operate behind the patients and staff at the hospital, located in central Gaza City, posed too much of a risk for Israeli forces, and Israel Air Force (IAF) planes finished the destruction of the hospital.

  • AviationAirlines suspend international flights to and from Israel

    With the downing by Ukrainian separatists of the MH17 jetliner as a backdrop, several international airlines on Tuesday have halted their flights to and from Israel. Some airlines said they would reconsider the decision after twenty-four hours, other airlines said the flights would be halted indefinitely. It appears that what triggered the decision was a Hamas rocket which landed in the town of Yahood, about a mile or two from Ben Gurion International Airport.

  • MH17Forensic technology could help U.S. prove case against Russia, Ukrainian separatists

    Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on several media outlets to make a case against Russia for the country’s support of pro-Russian separatists responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. The United States is confident that rebels attacked the airplane with an SA-11 Gadfly 9K37M1 Buk-1M fired missile. For the United States to prove its allegations against Russia and the Ukrainian separatists, Western authorities must first gain full access to the crash site, utilize an arsenal of forensic investigative technology, then gather eye witness accounts. Once the United States can prove its allegations, European partners can then be persuaded to impose tougher sanctions on Russia.

  • ImmigrationWave of illegal children immigrants shifts debate on use of executive powers

    After several immigration bills stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama, in 2012 and 2013, issued a series of executive orders to limit the number of deportations of illegal immigrants. Many who advocated a tougher stance on immigration have charged Obama with failure to consult with Congress. The Obama administration is now trying to find a way to deport Central American illegal immigrants, many of them unaccompanied children, without running afoul of a George W. Bush 2008 law which makes such deportation difficult – and some of his immigration criticswant him to take executive action on the issue, a shift from their usual criticism that he has abused his executive powers.

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  • Nuclear wasteFire shuts down nuclear repository, but DOE still recognizes operator for “excellent” performance

    Five days after an underground truck fire closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Energy Department (DOE) awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the operating contractor of the nuclear repository, $1.9 million for “excellent” performance during the past year.Shortly after the truck fire, WIPP was shut down because of radiation leak, Still, “No federal or contractor official has lost their job, been transferred, been moved off the WIPP contract or otherwise held accountable. No leadership has changed at the federal level. No company has lost a contract,” noted an industry observer.

  • Nuclear wasteJapan testing underground nuclear waste storage depot, despite local concerns

    Data is being collected at the Horonobe Underground Research Center, in Horonobe, Japan to determine whether the site is able to begin storing radioactive waste in conditions which could last for 100,000 years.Japanese utility systems have produced more that 17,000 tons of “spent” nuclear fuel rods from power plants which are no longer useful but are expected to remain radioactive for around several thousand years.

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  • BiolabsLawmaker says CDC made false lab safety pledges

    A house panel is investigating repeated safety lapses at key government laboratories, including an incident in which eighty lab workers were likely exposed to live anthrax bacteria at an Atlanta facility. The group is also investigating the CDC’s responses to the incidents. The committee chairman noted that CDC had in the past offered assurances that it was tightening monitoring of labs’ safety procedures, but that such pledges were not fulfilled.

  • Explosives detectionTiny laser sensor increases bomb detection sensitivity

    New technology under development could soon give bomb-sniffing dogs some serious competition. A team of researchers has found a way dramatically to increase the sensitivity of a light-based plasmon sensor to detect incredibly minute concentrations of explosives. The researchers noted that the sensor could potentially be used to sniff out a hard-to-detect explosive popular among terrorists. The sensor also could be developed into an alarm for unexploded land mines that otherwise are difficult to detect, the researchers said.

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  • Nuclear weaponsBarksdale AFB to be upgraded so it could store nuclear weapons on site

    In 2009, the Louisiana congressional delegation successfully fought for locating the Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force base. Barksdale, home to the Global Strike Command, is No. 2 on the Air Force’s priority list of nuclear weapons storage areas set to receive an upgrade so Barksdale can safety store the U.S. nuclear weapons and load the weapons onto B-52s. The B-52s stationed at Barksdale AFB currently fly to other installations to load nuclear weapons onboard. Language inserted last week into the bill that funds the Department of Defense (DOD) for FY15 requires the Air Force to develop a detailed plan within ninety days of the bill becoming law on how it will modernize the U.S. five nuclear weapons storage areas, including the one at Barksdale Air Force Base.

  • TerrorismAzamat Tazhayakov, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friend, guilty of conspiracy charges

    Azamat Tazhayakov, who removed a backpack from the dorm room of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been found guilty by a Boston jury of impeding an investigation and conspiracy. Tazhayakov was one of three college friends of Tsarnaev charged following the bombing. Tazhayakov could face up to five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

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  • BiolabsThe number of labs handling deadly germs grows, and so do calls for regulating lab safety

    The number of labs handling dangerous pathogens continues to grow, and so does the number of accidents involving dangerous pathogens. The number of reported accidents involving dangerous microbes grew rapidly from just sixteen in 2004 to 128 in 2008, and 269 in 2010, the last year reported.Experts note that currently there is no single federal agency responsible for assessing overall laboratory needs — instead, departments and agencies only assess the needs for labs relative to their respective missions.

  • PlagueChinese authorities seal off city after bubonic plague death last week

    Chinese authorities have sealed off the city of Yumen, in the north-western province of Gansu, and 151 people have been quarantined since last week after a man died of bubonic plague. The 30,000 residents of the city are not being allowed to leave, and police at roadblocks on the perimeter of the city are preventing people from going into the city, instructing motorists to find alternative routes.

  • SuperbugsSewage treatment contributes to antibiotic resistance

    Wastewater treatment plants are unwittingly helping to spread antibiotic resistance, say scientists. Researchers found that processing human, farm, and industrial waste all together in one place makes it easier for bacteria to become resistant to a wide range of even the most clinically-effective antibiotics. This is because so many different types of bacteria come together in sewage plants that it gives them a perfect opportunity to swap genes that confer resistance, helping them live. This means antibiotic-resistant bacteria are evolving much faster than they would in isolation.

  • EarthquakesUpdating information about U.S. regional earthquake hazards

    The USGS recently updated their U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps, which reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur, and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result. While all states have some potential for earthquakes, 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in fifty years (the typical lifetime of a building). Scientists also conclude that sixteen states have a relatively high likelihood of experiencing damaging ground shaking. These states have historically experienced earthquakes with a magnitude 6 or greater. To help make the best decisions to protect communities from earthquakes, new USGS maps display how intense ground shaking could be across the nation.

  • EarthquakesFirst federal funds for West Coast earthquake warning system

    Efforts by California officials to expand an earthquake warning system for the West Coast gained ground last Tuesday as the House Appropriations Committeerecommended $5 million — the first federal funds specifically for the project — toward the warning system. Analysts project the system will cost $38.3 million to build, and $16.1 million a year to operate and maintain. The $5 million would allow the purchase and installation of additional sensors and hiring of staff.

  • WasteResearchers create safe, resistant material to store waste

    Storing industrial waste has never been a pretty job, and it is getting harder. New techniques for refining such metals as aluminum and vanadium, for example, also yield new byproducts that have to be sealed away from human and environmental contact. Also, the practice of “scrubbing” the exhaust of coal-fired power plants keeps chemicals like sulfur dioxide from entering the air, but produces a more concentrated residue. Now, many of these wastes are proving too acidic, basic or concentrated for commonly used storage materials.

  • Food securityHow existing cropland could feed billions more

    Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth’s strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. According to a new report, focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops, and actions could make it possible both to meet the basic needs of three billion more people and decrease agriculture’s environmental footprint. The report focuses on seventeen key crops that produce 86 percent of the world’s crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale.

  • MH17Kerry: All evidence points to separatists; Russia should “step up”

    U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said on Sunday that all the evidence related to the downing of Malaysian passenger plane clearly pointed to Ukrainian separatists as the culprits. Kerry appeared on all five major Sunday talk shows to present the administration’s case against the separatists – and Russia — and to call on Russia to pressure the separatists to stop removing key pieces of evidence from the crash scene and stop blocking an investigation into the firing of a surface-to-air missile which brought down the jetliner.

  • BiolabsConcerns grow about CDC’s tracking, securing dangerous pathogens under its supervision

    Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) officials reported that the same federal scientist who found vials of smallpox in a Food and Drug Administration(FDA) cold storage room at the National Institutes of Healthfacility in Bethesda, Maryland, also found a collection of 327 vials which could contain pathogens like dengue, influenza, and rickettsia. The new revelation adds to growing concerns about the government’s ability to track and secure dangerous pathogens under its supervision.”It is ironic that the institution that sets U.S. standards for safety and security of work with human pathogens fails to meet its own standards,” says a security expert. “It is clear that the CDC cannot be relied upon to police its own select-agent labs.”

  • ImmigrationNYC forms a task force to coordinate accommodation for migrant children

    New York City officials have formed a task force to help coordinate accommodation for Central American children who have arrived in the city in recent months after weeks and months of living under the care of immigration and border officials near the Southwest border. Since October 2013, federal officials have sent more than 3,200 children to New York City and elsewhere in the state to live with relatives or guardians, and about 7,000 more are expected to arrive in the coming months, according to officials who have been briefed by federal authorities.