Today's news

  • EgyptIslamist militants kill more than 60 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai attacks

    At least sixty Egyptian soldiers have been killed so far in several coordinated attacks this morning by ISIS militants on Egyptian military positions and political buildings in the Sinai Peninsula. The attacks, which according to Egyptian sources involved more than seventy Islamists, included the simultaneous explosion of car bombs and at several locations. Islamists militants in northern Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, have battled the Egyptian security forces for years. After the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from power in July 2013, and after thousands of the movement’s followers were killed and jailed and it was banned, the Islamists in Sinai expanded their activity inside Egypt, getting support from some of the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • Terrorism & crimeStudying the connections between organized crime, terrorism in Eurasia

    Eurasia is a major international drug trafficking hotspot that supports insurgent movements and terrorism, and it is an important site where terrorism and transnational organized crime intersect, according to the grant application. The breakup of the Soviet Union, which eliminated some terrorist organization funding, and the U.S. crackdown on money laundering and financial operations that supported terrorism after 9/11 have led terrorist groups to rely more heavily on organized crime. The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded researchers a $935,500 grant to study the connection of organized crime, terrorism and insurgency in Eurasia.

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  • Crude-by-railNew rail safety rule appears to allow railroad companies to keep oil shipment info secret

    Some railroad companies are arguing that a clause in a new federal rule meant to improve outdated tanker car designs, allows rail companies not to share shipment information publicly except for of emergency services personnel. Though the DOT acknowledged that there had been significant public demand for total transparency, the language in the final ruling was vague enough to allow for the hauler’s interpretation.

  • PrivacyPrivacy by design: Protecting privacy in the digital world

    It is a fact of modern life — with every click, every tweet, every Facebook Like, we hand over information about ourselves to organizations which are desperate to know all of our secrets, in the hope that those secrets can be used to sell us something. What power can individuals have over their data when their every move online is being tracked? Researchers are building new systems that shift the power back to individual users, and could make personal data faster to access and at much lower cost.

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  • FloodsMajor Midwest flood risk underestimated by as much as five feet: Study

    As floodwaters surge along major rivers in the Midwestern United States, a new study suggests federal agencies are underestimating historic 100-year flood levels on these rivers by as much as five feet, a miscalculation that has serious implications for future flood risks, flood insurance, and business development in an expanding floodplain. Moreover, high-water marks are inching higher as global warming makes megafloods more common.

  • Nuclear powerA new look for nuclear power

    By Nancy W. Stauffer

    Many experts cite nuclear power as a critical component of a low-carbon energy future. Nuclear plants are steady, reliable sources of large amounts of power; they run on inexpensive and abundant fuel; and they emit no carbon dioxide (CO2). A novel nuclear power plant that will float eight or more miles out to sea promises to be safer, cheaper, and easier to deploy than today’s land-based plants.

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  • Food securityMuzzle biometrics for cattle ID reduces food fraud

    Meat products are currently a vital part of the global food supply, with beef being a major component of that trade. However, international markets, emerging infectious diseases, and criminal activity mean that there is always a risk of inferior products hitting the supermarket shelves. Researchers are developing a biometric identification system for cattle that could reduce food fraud and allow ranchers to control their stock more efficiently. The system uses the unique features of a prominent part of the animal to identify the beasts — their muzzles.

  • SyriaTurkish forces to enter Syria to create buffer zone along border

    Turkey, for the first time since the war in Syria began four years ago, is preparing to send troops into Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has authorized a change in the rules of engagement which were agreed to by the Turkish parliament, and the changes would allow the Turkish army to strike ISIS and Assad regime targets. The goal of the new policy is not new: to create a buffer zone inside Syria for Syrian refugees fleeing the regime’s bombing, but Erdogan has also suggested that the main target of the intervention, if it takes place, will be to prevent the Syrian Kurds from creating a Kurdish state in the Kurdish regions of Syria.

  • War on terrorAfghans do not view U.S.-led war in their country as “their war”: Report

    Afghan security forces, like their fellow citizens more generally, do not view the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan as “their war.” This is a primary policy-relevant conclusion reached in one of two new reports issued last week by the Costs of War Project at Brown’s University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Members of the Afghan National Police Force (ANP) do not see the war as their own; they participate as a means of employment to make a living and support family members, particularly given the lack of economic opportunities after thirty-five years of armed conflict and foreign occupation.

  • Terrorism insurance2014 uncertainty over renewal of Terrorism Risk Insurance Act changed consumer behavior

    Terrorism insurance take-up rates dropped off toward the end of 2014, due to the anxiety stemming from the unexpected expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA). Through much of 2014, there was uncertainty whether Congress would renew the program, which initially passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This uncertainty led customers, and potential customers, to change their insurance buying plans.

  • Public healthCalifornia's strict vaccine bill would not allow vaccination waiver

    Last Thursday, the California State Assembly passed SB227, an amendment to the current vaccine bill which would eliminate a waiver for parents to opt out of having their children vaccinated. The proposal passed on a 46-31 vote and is now going back to the Senate this week to confirm the amendments.Under SB277, students who are not vaccinated would have to be homeschooled or participate in off-campus study programs.

  • CybersecurityMost Internet anonymity software leaks users' details

    Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are legal and increasingly popular for individuals wanting to circumvent censorship, avoid mass surveillance, or access geographically limited services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. The study of fourteen popular VPN providers found that eleven of them leaked information about the user because of a vulnerability known as “IPv6 leakage.”

  • WaterOur mostly dry planetary neighbors once had lots of water -- what does that imply for us?

    By David A. Weintraub

    Our two closest solar system neighbors, Venus and Mars, once had oceans — planet-encircling, globe-girdling, Earth-like oceans, but neither Venus nor Mars could hold onto their water for long enough to nurture advanced life forms until they could flourish. The lessons from Venus and Mars are clear and simple: water worlds are delicate and fragile. Water worlds that can survive the ravages of aging, whether natural or inflicted by their inhabitants — and can nurture and sustain life over the long term — are rare and precious. If we allow the temperature of our planet to rise a degree or two, we may survive it as a minor environmental catastrophe. But beyond a few degrees, if we allow a runaway greenhouse effect to kick up the temperature a few more notches, do we know the point at which global warming sends our atmosphere into a runaway death spiral, turning Earth into Venus? We know what the endgame looks like.

  • Domestic terrorismAnti-government extremism most prevalent terrorist threat inside U.S.: Law enforcement

    U.S. law enforcement agencies rank the threat of violence from anti-government extremists higher than the threat from radicalized Muslims, according to a report released last Thursday by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (TCTHS). The data were collected in early 2014, before security agencies began noting increased activity and recruitment of Americans by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS). In follow-up telephone interviews with law enforcement personnel, the officers did not modify their initial responses in light of ISIS threats within the United States.

  • RadicalizationInternet facilitates radicalization of Westerners, even as reasons vary

    Since the early 2000s the Internet has become an important tool for the global jihadist movement. Nowhere has the Internet been more important in the movement’s development than in the West. A new study says that while dynamics differ from case to case, it is fair to state that almost all recent cases of radicalization in the West involve at least some digital footprint. Jihadism is a complex ideology that mixes religion and politics. The study confirms, however, the importance of its religious aspect for many of those who embrace violence — a fact some studies have dismissed.

  • CybersecurityAbu Dhabi’s power system to be used for critical infrastructure cybersecurity study

    Abu Dhabi, UAE-based Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and MIT will use Abu Dhabi’s power system as a case study for developing a knowledge map of the power system and its cybersecurity shortcomings. The project is due to run for two years. At the end of this two year period, the collaborating institutions hope that data from the analysis of Abu Dhabi’s power system could be compared against data from the projects running concurrently in New York and Singapore to develop a comprehensive knowledge map, capable of being applied to critical infrastructure worldwide.

  • First response gearAlumnus’s throwable tactical camera gets commercial release

    By Rob Matheson

    Unseen areas are troublesome for police and first responders: Rooms can harbor dangerous gunmen, while collapsed buildings can conceal survivors. Now Bounce Imaging, founded by an MIT alumnus, is giving officers and rescuers a safe glimpse into the unknown. In July, the Boston-based startup will release its first line of tactical spheres, equipped with cameras and sensors, which can be tossed into potentially hazardous areas to instantly transmit panoramic images of those areas back to a smartphone.

  • Oil spillsEco-friendly oil spill solution developed

    Chemists have developed an eco-friendly biodegradable green “herding” agent that can be used to clean up light crude oil spills on water. Derived from the plant-based small molecule phytol abundant in the marine environment, the new substance would potentially replace chemical herders currently in use.

  • Coastal resilienceSea-level rise threatens $40 billion of national park assets, historical and cultural infrastructure

    U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last week released a report revealing that national park infrastructure and historic and cultural resources totaling more than $40 billion are at high risk of damage from sea-level rise caused by climate change. The report was conducted by scientists from the National Park Service and Western Carolina University and is based on an examination of forty parks — about one-third of those considered threatened by sea-level rise — and the survey is on-going.

  • Cyber educationU.S. Cyber Challenge Eastern Regional Competition announces winner

    On Friday, participants of the annual U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) Eastern Regional Cyber Camp competed in a “Capture-the-Flag” competition to demonstrate their knowledge and skill of cybersecurity and compete to win one of a limited number of (ISC)2 scholarships. Participants of Eastern Regional Cyber Camp were selected based in part on their scores from Cyber Quests, an online competition offered through USCC in April, which drew more than 1,300 registrants from over 600 schools nationwide.

  • TerrorismTwo terrorists attack U.S.-owned factory in France, decapitating one worker

    The French police is investigating what appears to be a terrorist attack on a factory owned by a U.S. gas company after a decapitated body and a flag with Islamist inscriptions were found in a factory in south-east France belonging to a U.S. gas company. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said one of the attackers was killed by a firefighter, and that other firefighters captured the second attacker, who was identified as Yessim Salim. Cazeneuve told reporters that Salim was under surveillance by the French security services since 2008. The severed head was found on top of the gate at the entrance to the factory.

  • IranIran offered nuclear help in exchange for tighter restrictions on weapons-related technology

    The talks between the P5+1 and Iran over a nuclear deal resumed on Wednesday, and sources say that Western powers have offered Iran high-tech reactors in exchange for further curbs on those aspects of Iran’s nuclear program which would make it possible for it to “break out” of the confines of the deal and build a nuclear weapon. The Western powers promised to supply Iran with light-water nuclear reactors instead of its nearly completed heavy-water facility at Arak, which could produce enough plutonium for several bombs a year if completed as planned. One of the major goals of the P5+1 negotiators has been to reduce the Arak reactor’s plutonium output, thus blocking Iran’s plutonium path to the bomb. It offers cooperation with Iran in the fields of nuclear safety, nuclear medicine, research, nuclear waste removal, and other peaceful applications.