Business

  • 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    Some railroad companies are arguing that a clause in a new federal rule meant to improve outdated tanker car designs, allows rail companies not to share shipment information publicly except for of emergency services personnel.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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Private securityIowa mall shooting draws attention to lack of private security preparedness

    A fatal 12 June shooting by Alexander Kozak, an off-duty security guard at the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, Iowa has highlighted the lack of screening regulations in private security firms. In Iowa, for example, despite licensing by Iowa Code Section 80A, many private security guards working at state malls, schools, and corporations have no training requirements and dodgy background check rules.

  • Food securityPrecision agriculture: Sensors and drones as farmers’ best friends

    The precision agriculture sector is expected to grow at a high rate over the coming years. This new way of farming is already a reality in northwest Italy, where technologies are being used to keep plants in a good state of health but also to avert the loss of quality yield. Sensors and drones can be among the farmers’ best friends, helping them to use less fertilizers and water, and to control the general condition of their crops.

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  • Flood insuranceTying insurance rates to flood risk for low-lying structures

    Current methods used by the National Flood Insurance Program for setting risk-based insurance rates do not fully capture the flood risk for low-lying structures, which are more likely to incur losses because they are subject to longer duration and greater depth of flooding and are flooded more frequently and by smaller flood events, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report offers alternative approaches for calculating risk-based premiums for these structures, ranging from incremental changes to current methods to a complete overhaul of the system, although it does not recommend which approach the NFIP should adopt or what the new rates should be.

  • Food securityUsing technology to defeat a tiny beetle which threatens grain stores

    Invasive insect species pose a considerable threat to U.S. agriculture and natural resources – making it imperative that known invasive species are detected and their introduction prevented throughout global trade pathways. The tiny khapra beetle poses a major threat to unprotected grain stores. Scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) are helping the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) Plant Protection Quarantine (PPQ) find an easier, more effective way to inspect bulk food supply for khapra beetles.

  • China syndromeState Department stays away from Chinese-owned Waldorf Astoria

    The U.S. State Department said American diplomats and State Department officials, for the first time in decades, would not be staying at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel during this year’s UN general assembly. Worldwide last year sold the high-end Midtown hotel for $1.95 billion to the Chinese group Anbang Insurance Group. The sales contract allowed for “a major renovation” by the Chinese, and American security experts had no doubt as to the purpose of these “renovations”: As is the practice in China, the Chinese owners, working on behalf of China’s intelligence services, were going to plant listening devices in every room and ball room, and wire every phone, Wi-Fi hot spot, and restaurant table in order to eavesdrop on hotel guests.

  • CyberinsuranceUnderwriters of cyberinsurance policies need better understanding of cyber risks

    Demand for insurance that covers an ever-increasing range of cyberattacks is growing and evolving rapidly, and a number of insurance companies are seeking advice through sponsored events that can gradually educate their work forces. At Standard & Poor’s Rating Services 2015 Insurance Conference last week, a panel of insurance experts stressed the importance of insurance underwriters gaining a better understanding of cyber risks in order to make better property and risk assessments.

  • Rare earth materialsSimplifying recycling of rare-earth magnets

    Despite their ubiquity in consumer electronics, rare-earth metals are, as their name suggests, hard to come by. Mining and purifying them is an expensive, labor-intensive and ecologically devastating process. Researchers have now pioneered a process that could enable the efficient recycling of two of these metals, neodymium and dysprosium. These elements comprise the small, powerful magnets that are found in many high-tech devices. In contrast to the massive and energy-intensive industrial process currently used to separate rare earths, the new method works nearly instantaneously at room temperature and uses standard laboratory equipment. Sourcing neodymium and dysprosium from used electronics rather than the ground would increase their supply at a fraction of the financial, human and environment cost.

  • Emerging threatsOverstretched global food system vulnerable to disruptive shocks: Lloyd's report

    The vulnerability of the overstretched global food system to sudden shocks, and the wide repercussions for communities, businesses, and governments was highlighted yesterday by a report published by Lloyd’s. The reports highlights the far-reaching economic and humanitarian consequences that disruptions such as weather catastrophes or plant pandemics – many of which are exacerbated by climate change — could have on the global economy. This series of shocks has the potential to trigger food riots in urban areas across the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America, leading to wider political instability and knock-on effects for a wide range of businesses.

  • Emerging threatsNew technologies developed to deal with growing illegal migration

    Mass migration driven by climate change is pushing the global demand for border security solutions. It is not just that climate change displaces people through floods, storms, and rising sea levels; it also displaces them through scarcity of food and water, and by the conflicts that are in turn sparked by scarcity and migration. Companies specializing in border solutions are developing new technologies to help border agents track and identify illegal migrants.

  • Flood insuranceNational Flood Insurance Program to focus more on victims’ needs

    Roy Wright, the newly appointed director of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), said that he will push it to better focus on the welfare and individual needs of disaster victims, following years of scandal within the organization. Wright, who will preside over the federal program beginning this week, criticized the insurance loopholes and complicated rules of private insurance companies that were perpetuated by the NFIP to “nickel-and-dime” policyholders and undermine their abilities to rebuild following a flood.

  • Crude-by-railChicago, center of fracking oil shipments, debates rail safety

    Chicago is home to the busiest crossroads of the nation’s rail network, and the country’s boom in oil fracking has led the city to see not only a massive increase in crude oil transferred by rail in the region, but also debates about the public safety of such an influx. The Windy City has experienced a 4,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008, with many of the densely packed suburbs surrounding the city located very close to rail lines and switches.