Today's news

  • EbolaFirst New York Ebola case confirmed

    Dr. Craig Spencer, who had been working with Doctors without Borders in Guinea and treating Ebola patients before returning to New York City on 14 October, was taken to Bellevue Hospital yesterday (Thursday) and placed in strict isolation. Tests later determined that he had contracted the Ebola virus. Spencer is the first New Yorker diagnosed with Ebola. As if in anticipation of a case like Dr. Spencer’s, more than 5,000 healthcare workers in New York participated in a three-hour session earlier this week to prepare for Ebola should an infected person arrive in the New York City region.

  • EbolaRMS develops probabilistic model of West African Ebola outbreak

    Current outbreak has the potential to be the deadliest infectious disease event since the 1918 flu pandemic. The outbreak will worsen and could reach as many as 1,400 new cases per day within a month, according to pandemic risk experts. According to a new model developed by RMS, until a tipping point is reached at which the number of new daily cases declines rather than increases, the severity of the outbreak will continue to multiply, with the total number of new cases approximately doubling each month.

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  • China syndromeChina steals confidential data on the vulnerabilities of major U.S. dams

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams(NID) contains critical information on the vulnerabilities of the roughly 8,100 major dams in the United States. Between January and April 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies spotted several attempts by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cyber-espionage unit to access the NID database and steal its contents. On Monday, National Weather Service (NWS) hydrologist Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, 59 was arrested for allegedly breaching the NID security and stealing confidential data on U.S. dam vulnerabilities. The Justice Department has raised the alarm over multiple attempts by China to steal data on U.S. critical infrastructure through individuals with privileged access to confidential databases.

  • SurveillanceLaw enforcement: Apple iOS 8 software would hinder efforts to keep public safety

    With its new iOS 8 operating software, Apple is making it more difficult for law enforcement to engage in surveillance of users of iOS8 smartphones. Apple has announced that photos, e-mail, contacts, and other personal information will now be encrypted, using the user’s very own passwords — meaning that Apple will no longer be able to respond to government warrants for the extraction of data.

  • NukesU.S. planning expansion of nuclear production in the face of safety concerns

    Despite the release of a damning report regarding the 14 February nuclear waste accident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the government is planning ramped-up production of nuclear weapons cores, a move which is raising red flags for those calling for reform of nuclear production and storage procedures.

  • Disaster insuranceNapa Valley residents debate necessity of earthquake insurance

    Many residents of the Napa Valley in California are weighing the benefits and costs of earthquake insurance in the wake of the 24 August quake, which heavily damaged many homes and businesses in the region. The high premiums of earthquake insurance are deterring many home and business owners, despite the real threat of intensive damage.Only 6 percent of Napa Valley residents had earthquake insurance, andonly 9 percent of California businesses have coverage.

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  • Disaster insuranceU.S insurance sector showing “profound lack of preparedness in addressing climate-related risks”: Report

    Amid growing evidence that climate change is having wide-ranging global impacts which will worsen in the years ahead, a new report ranks the nation’s 330 largest insurance companies on what they are saying and doing to respond to escalating climate risks. The report found strong leadership among fewer than a dozen companies but generally poor responses among the vast majority. “Despite being on the ‘front line’ of climate risks, most of the company responses show a profound lack of preparedness in addressing climate-related risks and opportunities,” says the president of the organization sponsoring the report.

  • CanadaCanada reflective, tense in wake of attack on parliament building

    Canadians are still in shock today — the Globe and Mail’s healdine reads: “Attack on Ottawa: Brazen assault could be turning point for Canada” — at the realization that their country is not more immune to terrorist attacks than their neighbor to the south or fellow democracies across the Atlantic. There were acts of terrorism in  Canada in the past — mostly committed by Quebec separatists in the late 1960 and early 1970s — but yesterday’s attacks had a different feel to them. “A gunman struck at the heart of the Canadian government…. in what was one of the most brazen attacks on a Western government in recent history,” the Globe and Mail wrote.

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  • CanadaCanada considering expanding powers of its security agencies

    The Harper government is considering legislation which would expand the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate, apprehend, and detain homegrown terrorists. CSIS wants the power to take advantage of the so-called “Five Eyes” spy network to which Canada, the United Kingdom, America, Australia, and New Zealand all belong. CSIS is also asking for more power to track Canadians believed to have been radicalized, and to take more advantage of anonymous sources. Ottawa officials are talking about whether to give CSIS explicit legislative permission to engage in “threat-diminishment” — a power which the intelligence agency’s watchdog recently pointed out that CSIS already uses, but the law does not explicitly permit.

  • EbolaConnecticut issues new Ebola guidelines

    Officials in Connecticut have issued new guidelines which require individuals returning from West Africa with no symptoms of Ebola to be quarantined for twenty-one days. Although the guidelines require travelers with no symptoms of Ebola to be quarantined at home, state Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen recently said that her office would review each quarantine-eligible case before enforcing the measure.

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  • EbolaEbola kills, but it may be immunizing others at the same time

    As Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, it may be silently immunizing large numbers of people who never fall ill or infect others, yet become protected from future infection. If such immunity is confirmed, it would have significant ramifications on projections of how widespread the disease will be and could help determine strategies that health workers use to contain the disease.

  • In the trenchesIsrael army in late August saved Irish troops from al-Nusra Jihadists on Golan Heights

    Israel Defense Force (IDF) units on 30 August helped rescue Irish soldiers serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights. The rescue required the IDF to direct heavy fire at the Syrian Jihadists to prevent them from approaching the Irish contingent. The IDF, using its observation posts and aerial intelligence, guided the Irish soldiers so they could avoid concentrations of the heavily armed al-Nusra forces.

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  • GunsBullet-tracing technology helps nab criminals

    Firing a gun leaves a unique carving on each bullet, what some police officers refer to as the gun’s DNA. The Minneapolis Police Department(MPD) has upgraded its bullet-tracing technology, or integrated ballistic identification solution (IBIS), quickly to match bullets to different crimes around the city, and soon around the country. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network(NIBIN) is a national database of bullets and shell castings that shares information on the markings left on a bullet after it passes through a gun’s chamber.

  • ImmigrationData indicate there is no immigration crisis

    Is there an “immigration crisis” on the U.S.-Mexico border? Not according to an examination of historical immigration data, according to a new study. The paper examines historical immigration data, the “push” and “pull” factors currently motivating Mexicans and Central Americans to migrate to the United States and attempts to explain why current undocumented immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border has been perceived as a crisis.

  • Coastal infrastructureSea level rise or not, coastal development in south Florida is booming

    Miami and Miami Beach are both considered ground zero for the challenges posed by climate change, as both cities will experience considerable sea level rise by mid-century. Constant flooding will become the norm as high tides reach shores, posing a threat to property and human life. As discouraging as the future may seem for South Florida, residents, real estate investors, and companies are increasing their investments in the area.

  • EbolaU.S. officials mull quarantines, other options should Ebola spread

    With the possibility of a wider spread of Ebola in the United States, U.S. officials are weighing the legal authority of instituting quarantines, while also keeping public panic to a minimum. while medical expertise and updated guidelines have been provided by the CDC, federal government officials are also considering the implications of quarantines, bans on travel to-and-from other countries, and public health emergency declarations which could tap into more earmarked funds for larger operations.

  • EbolaCongress ready to allocate additional funds to agencies working on Ebola

    Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

  • ISISFive Britons go to Iraq, Syria every week to join ISIS: U.K. police chief

    The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the most senior U.K. police officer, has revealed that five Britons are travelling to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) every week. Hogan-Howe spoke after it was reported that a third Jihadi from Portsmouth has been killed in the conflict. Hogan-Howe said that the figure of five Britons a week joining ISIS was a minimum and the “drumbeat of terrorism in the U.K.” was now “faster and more intense.” He added: “Those are the ones that we believe have gone. There may be many more who set out to travel to another country and meandered over to Syria and Iraq in a way that is not always possible to spot when you have failed states and leaky borders,” Hogan-Howe said.

  • ISISIslamic State lacks key ingredient to make ‘caliphate’ work: eunuchs

    By Thomas W. Johnson and Richard J. Wassersug

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) as a Muslim caliphate on 29 June 2014, with himself as caliph. Each of the earlier caliphates, however, had two features that ISIS lacks. First, ISIS has yet to establish a proper capital: A true state needs a central place to which taxes are paid and from which laws, regulations, and other administrative functions descend. Second, all previous caliphates relied on a special class of bureaucrats to provide stability and statesmanship. Those were eunuchs, who were unable to impregnate the women sequestered in the palace. As long as ISIS persists in beheading rather than castrating the males it captures, it has little hope of resurrecting a historic caliphate. Granted, ISIS is already acquiring women, but it has no-one to guard them for the caliph and no infertile functionaries to enact the authority of the state. While it has been less than a century since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it is clear that a key concept for continuity with the great caliphates of the past has been lost. Simply stated, if ISIS doesn’t build a deeply fortified city and start producing eunuch bureaucrats, it will never have the stability and endurance of historic caliphates. The best it can hope for is to be recognized as a twenty-first-century predatory horde. If ISIS continues along its current path, it is likely to be remembered like the Vandals — that is, as murderous marauders who get brief mention in high school history classes.

  • First respondersDigital database, tablets to provide Houston firefighters with fire scene-relevant information

    Firefighters in the greater Houston region will soon rely on tablets to provide information about certain buildings before they arrive at the scene of a fire. An anti-terrorism grant awarded by DHS has paid for the development of a digital database of high-risk structures, including buildings which are critical to the state and city daily operations. The tablets will replace binders full of papers stored in the back of fire engines and command vehicles, which were rarely used because they were difficult to reach while en route to a scene.

  • Infrastructure protectionRetrofitting old buildings to make them earthquake safe

    Non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings are among the most common structures in the United States. They are also among the most deadly. Structures built prior to the 1950s in California and prior to the 1980s in the central and southeastern United States were typically not designed with proper details to perform adequately during earthquakes. Through a grant provided by the National Science Foundation, researchers are testing retrofits that potentially can make these buildings safer and more secure.

  • EarthquakesGlobal surge of great earthquakes from 2004 to 2014: Implications for Cascadia

    The last ten years have been a remarkable time for great earthquakes. Since December 2004 there have been no less than eighteen quakes of Mw8.0 or greater — a rate of more than twice that seen from 1900 to mid-2004. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and massive damage has resulted from these great earthquakes. As devastating as such events can be, however, these recent great quakes have come with a silver lining: They coincide with unprecedented advances in technological and scientific capacity for learning from them.