Today's news

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • WaterGetting the salt out

    By David L. Chandler

    The boom in oil and gas produced through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is seen as a boon for meeting U.S. energy needs. But one byproduct of the process is millions of gallons of water that’s much saltier than seawater, after leaching salts from rocks deep below the surface. Study shows electrodialysis can provide cost-effective treatment of salty water from fracked wells.

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  • TurkeyAbrupt shift: Turkey allows Kurdish peshmerga to cross Turkish territory to help in Kobani’s defense

    Bowing to intensifying U.S. pressure and growing domestic anger, the Turkish government, in an abrupt shift, announced yesterday (Monday) that it would allow Kurdish peshmerga forces from northern Iraq to cross Turkish territory on their way to defend Kurds in the besieged Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani. In another development, the United States has decided to ignore objections by the new Iraqi government to the United States directly providing military aid to the Kurds, and yesterday air-dropped twenty-four tons of weapons and ammunition for the Kurdish defenders of the town in the first supply run the United States had made to the besieged town in nearly five weeks of fighting. Military analysts said the two moves could tip the military balance in favor of the defenders of the Kurdish town in their month-long battle against Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.

  • EbolaStates’ waste disposal laws limit hospitals’ Ebola-related disposal options

    As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The CDC recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste.

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  • EbolaWHO missed several opportunities last spring to prevent outbreak from spreading

    The global response to the Ebola epidemic has been slow and inadequate, according to aid organizations and governments in West Africa. The World Health Organization(WHO), the United Nationsagency tasked with coordinating international response to disease outbreaks, missed opportunities to prevent the disease from spreading when it was first diagnosed last spring, according to a draft internal WHO report.

  • EbolaResponses to Ebola markedly different from responses to AIDS

    While there are some similarities between the AIDS epidemic and the Ebola outbreak, the response to the diseases by health officials and governments are completely different. The global response to Ebola has been swift compared to the response to AIDS, which was identified in 1981 but which did not receive international intervention until the mid-1990s, when the United Nations’ UNAIDS program was launched.

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  • ImmigrationEligible Haitian immigrants to be allowed to wait in U.S. for green card processing

    Haitian immigrants eligible for green cards will soon be able to wait through the process in the United States, according to a new family reunification program proposed by President Barack Obama. Starting next year, DHS will begin the implementation of the Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) program, aiming to accelerate the green card process for those living in Haiti who have already been approved for an immigration visa due to familial connections.

  • Earthquake early warningCalifornia earthquake early warning system set to go online in 2016

    Disaster management officials in California are reporting that a new earthquake early-warning system will be online in the state within the next two years. A bill mandating the system was passed in January under Senate Bill 135, requiring the state’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) to develop a statewide system that can alert Californians before dangerous shaking with a ten second window. The funding for the project is $80 million for the first five years.

  • ResilienceEngineers build, test earthquake-resistant house

    Residential homes already do a good job of keeping the people inside safe when a temblor hits. Earthquakes, however, typically do a lot of minor structural damage. For example, after the 1994 Northridge quake, the majority of the $25.6 billion in repair costs paid for fixes to 500,000 residential structures. Most of those homes were not destroyed, but nonetheless thousands of families had to find a new place to live while their houses were repaired. Twenty-five years after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Stanford engineers have built and tested an earthquake-resistant house that stayed staunchly upright even as it shook at three times the intensity of that destructive temblor. The engineers developed inexpensive design modifications that could be incorporated into new homes to reduce damage in an earthquake.

  • DroughtsStudy finds 1934 had worst drought of last thousand years

    A new study using a reconstruction of North American drought history over the last 1,000 years found that the drought of 1934 was the driest and most widespread of the last millennium. Using a tree-ring-based drought record from the years 1000 to 2005 and modern records, scientists found the 1934 drought was 30 percent more severe than the runner-up drought (in 1580) and extended across 71.6 percent of western North America. For comparison, the average extent of the 2012 drought was 59.7 percent.

  • EbolaSome steps taken by schools, businesses for fear of Ebola seen as excessive

    The plane carrying Amber Joy Vinson, the second Texas nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola, on the trip she took to from Cleveland to Dallas,is now in isolation in a Denver hangar.The 800 passengers who flew on the same planes as Vinson are being asked to self-quarantine for roughly twenty-one days. Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas has postponed recruiting applicants from Africa. Some see these and similar measures as excessive.

  • Ebola21-day quarantine for Ebola may not be enough to prevent spread of virus: Study

    As medical personnel and public health officials are responding to the first reported cases of Ebola Virus in the United States, many of the safety and treatment procedures for treating the virus and preventing its spread are being reexamined. One of the tenets for minimizing the risk of spreading the disease has been a 21-day quarantine period for individuals who might have been exposed to the virus. A new study looks at the murky basis for our knowledge about the virus, namely previous outbreaks in Africa in 1976 (Zaire) and 2000 (Uganda), as well as the first nine months of the current outbreak, and suggests that twenty-one days might not be enough completely to prevent spread of the virus.

  • EpidemicsMedical advances should not lead to complacency regarding possible flu pandemic: Scientists

    There have been five such pandemics in the past 100 years, the worst of which — the 1918 Spanish Flu — cost fifty million lives worldwide. As our ability to assess the pandemic risk from strains of influenza virus increases with the latest scientific developments, we must not allow ourselves to become complacent that the most substantial threats have been identified, argue an international consortium of scientists.

  • TurkeyTurkey will not agree to U.S. support for Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria: Erdogan

    Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday (Sunday) that Turkey would not agree to any U.S. arms transfers to Kurdish fighters who are fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria. ISIS increased its pressure on the Kurdish city of Kobani, just inside Syria across the Turkish border, but Turkey views the PYD, the main Syrian Kurdish group defending Kobani, as an extension of the PKK, a pro-Kurdish independence group which, in 1984, had launched an insurgency campaign against the Turkish state – a campaign which, until it officially ended in 2012, had cost the lives of about 42,000 Turks

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • SurveillanceGrowing scrutiny of police use of Stingray surveillance technology

    IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), aka Stingray, is a surveillance technology which simulates cell phone towers in order to intercept mobile phone calls and text messages. Privacy advocates have scrutinized the use of Stingrays in U.S. cities because, when the device tracks a suspect’s cell phone, it also gathers information about the phones of bystanders within the target range. Additionally, police use Stingrays without properly identifying the technology when requesting search warrants has raised concerns.