Today's news

  • BioterrorismCaptured documents reveal IS’s interest in acquiring bioterror weapons

    Terrorist organizations for a while now have been trying to acquire or build biological weapons of mass destruction. Now, with the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS), analysts are concerned that the Islamist group may gain access to bio-labs in Syria or Iraq. A laptop belonging to a Tunisian who joined ISIS was recently found in Syria, with documents about how to build and use biological weapons.

  • Emergency preparednessMedical registry systems are becoming part of emergency preparedness plans

    Communities across the country are exploring medical registry systems as part of their emergency preparedness plans. Using medical registries for emergency planning has been critical for New Orleans city officials, especially after Hurricane Katrina.St. Louis deployed its Functional Needs Registry after a power outage occurred in 2006.Experts note, though, that just because residents are listed in the city’s registry does not mean that help and services will always be delivered during emergencies.

  • view counter
  • African securityU.S. opens a second drone base in Niger

    The Pentagon has reached an agreement with the government of Niger to open a second U.S. drone base in the landlocked country. The base, in the city of Agadez, will help the U.S. Air Force track Islamist militants who have gained control of remote parts of North and West Africa. U.S. and French troops already operate out of a military base in Niamey, Niger’s capital, where drones are set to conduct reconnaissance flights throughout the region.

  • InfrastructureLos Angeles thinking of ways to shore up aging infrastructure

    Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the nation by population size, has been dealing with breaking infrastructure for years now. More than 10 percent of the city’s 7,200 miles of water pipes were built ninety years ago. About 40 percent of the region’s 6,500 miles of roads and highways are graded D or F, requiring so much money to fix them that the city is simply concentrating its maintenance efforts on C-graded roads, since they cost less to fix. Additionally, more than 4,000 of the 10,750 miles of sidewalks seriously need repair, according to city officials.

  • TerrorismISIS beheads second American hostage

    ISIS has released a video a few hours ago which depicts the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist kept captive by the group. It appears that Sotloff had been killed by the same U.K.-born ISIS militant who beheaded James Foley two weeks ago. U.S. intelligence experts had begun work on establishing the authenticity of the video. The killer warns President Obama to “back off” and end the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS targets, then warns other governments which might join the “evil” actions of the United States against ISIS. The video shows another kneeling captive, who is described as a British national (the U.K. has identified the hostage as David Cawthorne Haines, an aid worker).

  • TerrorismU.S. strike kills al-Shabab’s spiritual leader

    The U.S. military has attacked the Islamic al-Shabab network in Somalia yesterday (Monday). The Pentagon said the operation targeted the group’s fugitive leader. A senior Somali intelligence official said that a U.S. drone targeted al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane as he left a meeting of the group’s top leaders. Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, is the group’s spiritual leader who forged an alliance between Somali militants and al-Qaeda. About 100 U.S. Navy SEALs and other Special Operation forces have been operating in different parts of Somalia for more than a year now.

  • view counter
  • GunsOfficials increasingly worried about 3-D-printed gun technology

    State and local government officials are debating how to address the growing accessibility of 3-D-printed gun technology. Recent actions by government agencies have signaled that officials are concerned about the increasing availability of printed guns. In December of last year, the U.S. Senate extended the Undetectable Firearms Act for an additional ten years. Additionally, municipalities such as Philadelphia have also moved to ban 3-D-printed guns on the local level. Yet, despite these measures, the technology continues to proliferate.

  • Border securityFormer head of Internal Affairs at CBP: Agency suffers from “institutional narcissism”; conducting its affairs beyond “constitutional constraints”

    By Robert Lee Maril

    In what may become the most explosive scandal in the history of the U.S. Border Patrol, James F. Tomsheck, former head of Internal Affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), accused his own agency of protecting its agents from criminal charges, including murder, corruption, and graft. Tomsheck also directly pointed the finger at CBP senior management, including former Commissioner Alan Bersin and Chief David Aguilar. Tomsheck, who served until June of this year as the head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, characterized his agency as suffering from “institutional narcissism” and maintaining a culture which allowed its agents to act beyond “constitutional constraints”

  • view counter
  • EbolaNIH launching human safety study of Ebola vaccine candidate

    The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will this week begin initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease. The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults. The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

  • Transportation securityBetter security for Europe’s mass transportation

    When a suspicious individual flees on a bus or by train, things usually get tough for the police. This is because the security systems of the various transportation companies and security services are typically incompatible. The EU project, Secur-ED (Secure Urban Mass Transportation – European Demonstrator), aims to correct this by establishing better collaboration among transportation companies within the same city.

  • view counter
  • Cargo securityTraceable fingerprints for freight items

    Security is a top priority in air freight logistics, but screening procedures can be time consuming and costly. Researchers intend to boost efficiency with a new approach to digital logistics, without sacrificing the security of air freight operations. The researchers are working, among other things, on a marker that can be used to verify whether a freight item has already been X-rayed — something that has not been traceable. The researchers are additionally developing an RFID seal in order to detect subsequent tampering with a shipment.

  • Nuclear proliferationScientists improve accuracy, reliability of nuclear tests inspection

    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) operates the International Monitoring System (IMS) — 279 sensors-equipped facilities around the world which detect four types of physical phenomena that can provide evidence of a nuclear explosion having taken place: seismic waves, radioactive nuclei, underwater sound waves, and infrasonic waves. The evidence from the IMS is not always enough to convince signatories of the CTBT that a nuclear test has taken place. Scientists are trying to improve the accuracy and reliability of the IMS system.

  • view counter
  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. municipal data centers prepare to cope with sea-level rise

    The National Academy of Sciences says that 316 coastal cities in the United States are expected to be affected by sea-level rise within the next few decades. Those responsible for infrastructure maintenance are now considering how they can be better prepared for this eventuality. Among their tasks is the protection of data centers which handle much of the world’s information.

  • EbolaWest Africa Ebola cases to rise to 20,000; in Liberia virus uncontainable: WHO

    The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday warned the number of Ebola cases could rise to 20,000, while doctors in Liberia say the virus is now spreading so rapidly that the Ebola epidemic, at least in Liberia, can no longer be contained by the resources available in the country. WHO says the outbreak is accelerating throughout west Africa, where the number of deaths yesterday crossed the 1,500 mark, with 1,552 confirmed deaths. The number of those infected reached 3,069 – but health specialists say the numbers of those infected could be two to four times higher. The health care infrastructure in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leon is so poor, and large parts of each country have no meaningful health care system at all, that reports of those infected with the Ebola virus and those who died from it must be considered as underestimates.

  • EbolaPotential therapy for the Sudan strain of Ebola may contain some future outbreaks

    Ebola is a rare but deadly disease that exists as five strains, none of which has approved therapies. One of the most lethal strains is the Sudan Ebolavirus (SUDV). Although not the strain currently devastating West Africa, SUDV has caused widespread illness, even as recently as 2012. In a new study appearing in the journal ACS Chemical Biology, researchers report a possible therapy that could someday help treat patients infected with SUDV.

  • TerrorismISIS threat in Iraq exposes Obama’s failed policy in Syria: Administration insiders

    President Barack Obama has been coming under growing criticism over his policy – or, as some critics would argue, lack of policy — toward the Jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria. The criticism is increasingly coming from members of his own administration. They argue that the failure to help the moderate elements among the Syrian rebels not only helped Assad stay in power, but also allowed the Jihadists to cement their power over a large swath of Syria and then move south to control a third of Iraq. The president has recently asked for $500 million to help train moderate Syrian rebels, but even those who supported such a move two years ago say it may be too late.

  • EarthquakesNapa earthquake may persuade lawmakers to fund earthquake warning system

    Last Sunday’s Napa earthquake may push Congress to increase funding for an earthquake warning system. Building out the West Coast earthquake warning system, called ShakeAlert, would cost $120 million over five years, and an additional $16 million a year to operate. Today, ShakeAlert operates in a testing phase, and sensors notify researchers and volunteer participants when an earthquake has been detected.

  • EarthquakesSeismic retrofitting of older buildings helps, but it has its limits

    Even before last Sunday’s magnitude-6 earthquake struck Napa, officials anticipated that such an event would damage many of Napa’s historic brick buildings. So years ago, brick structures were required to get seismic retrofitting — bolting brick walls to ceilings and floors to make them stronger. “We can’t keep every single brick in place in many of these older buildings without extraordinarily costly retrofits,” says a structural engineer. “We can reduce the damage in losses, but not eliminate them entirely in older buildings.”

  • Real IDResidents of six Real ID-noncompliant states to face restrictions

    Massachusetts is one of the six states whose residents are unable to enter restricted parts of federal buildings without another identification card, such as a passport. The REAL ID measure requires states to verify citizenship and update security standards when issuing licenses. Officials in Massachusetts, Maine, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, and Louisiana say that the REAL ID program will cost millions and that it raises privacy concerns and infringes on state’ rights.

  • First respondersNYC tracks firefighters to scene with radio tags, automated display

    Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City has been pursuing ways better to coordinate the 14,000 firefighters and emergency response it employs. Prior to 9/11, the Fire Department New York (FDNY) used a paper/carbon-copy ride list to account for who’s present). Now, on fifteen of its vehicles, FDNY can automatically see which firefighters are nearby from the onboard computer, and relay that information to the city’s Operations Center.

  • FrackingBetter solutions for recycle fracking water

    Scientists have performed a detailed analysis of water produced by hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) of three gas reservoirs and suggested environmentally friendly remedies are needed to treat and reuse it. More advanced recycling rather than disposal of “produced” water pumped back out of wells could calm fears of accidental spillage and save millions of gallons of fresh water a year.

  • TerrorismMost of 2013 terrorist attacks took place in only a few countries

    The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). In 2013, 11,952 terrorist attacks resulted in 22,178 fatalities (including perpetrator deaths) and 37,529 injuries across 91 countries. More than half of all attacks (54 percent), fatalities (61 percent), and injuries (69 percent) occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.