Business

  • Industrial pollutionExtensive corrosion found at chemical tanks of W.Va. site which contaminated region

    Investigators by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have reported that they detected significant corrosion in MCHM chemical storage tanks at the Freedom Industries site responsible for a 9 January contamination of the Elk River which has impacted over 300,000 residents of the area.

  • Nuclear wasteFire shuts down nuclear repository, but DOE still recognizes operator for “excellent” performance

    Five days after an underground truck fire closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Energy Department (DOE) awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the operating contractor of the nuclear repository, $1.9 million for “excellent” performance during the past year.Shortly after the truck fire, WIPP was shut down because of radiation leak, Still, “No federal or contractor official has lost their job, been transferred, been moved off the WIPP contract or otherwise held accountable. No leadership has changed at the federal level. No company has lost a contract,” noted an industry observer.

  • ContractsDHS urged to investigate use of DHS grants for Motorola emergency comm. devices

    Three senior House Democrats have requested DHS’s Office of Inspector Generalto investigate allegations claiming Motorola’s contracting tactics have led state and local governments unnecessarily to spend millions of dollars on the company’s proprietary devices, including its two-way emergency radio systems.

  • Terror insuranceAs TRIA is set to expire in December, reauthorization by Congress is not a sure thing

    After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. insurance industry sustained an estimated $32.5 billion in total losses. In 2002, to encourage insurance companies to continue covering terrorism as part of commercial policies after many dropped the coverage for fear of more financial loss should another terror attack occur, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA).There has yet to be a TRIA payout due to the absence of a large-scale terrorist attack since the law went into effect. With TRIA expected to expire on 17 December 2014, businesses and some members of Congress are advocating the extension of the legislation, but two pending proposals in Congress have yet to gather the needed support to reauthorize TRIA.

  • Cyberattack insuranceDemand for cyberattack insurance grows, but challenges remain

    The surge in cyberattacks against the private sector and critical infrastructure has led to a growth in demand for cyber insurance; yet most insurers are unable properly to assess their clients’ cyber risk, let alone issue the appropriate pricing for their cyber coverage.Insurers which traditionally handle risks like weather disasters and fires, are now rushing to gain expertise in cyber technology.On average, a $1 million cyber coverage could cost $20,000 to $25,000.

  • ImmigrationHigh-tech industry-backed immigration reform advocacy group mulls strategy

    FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group launched by Facebookfounder Mark Zuckerberg, has spent millions of dollars on advertising and events to persuade members of Congress to revamp the country’s immigration policy, but despite having the capital, connections, and star power, the tech industry-based group is now forced to reorganize its strategies in the midst of a polarizing immigration debate.

  • EnergyThe price tag of the 2° climate target

    Addressing climate change will require substantial new investment in low-carbon energy and energy efficiency — but no more than what is currently spent on today’s fossil-dominated energy system. To limit climate change to 2° Celsius, low-carbon energy options will need additional investments of about $800 billion a year globally from now to mid-century, according to a new study, but much of that capital, however, could come from shifting subsidies and investments away from fossil fuels and associated technologies. Worldwide, fossil subsidies currently amount to around $500 billion per year.

  • CybersecuritySyrian Electronic Army’s attack on Reuters makes a mockery of cyber-security (again)

    By Bill Buchanan

    One big security issue that has arisen lately concerns control of news media. National boundaries have become blurred on the Internet, and the control any nation can have over information dissemination has been eroded — on news Web sites but especially on open platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. One lesson from all the attacks on open platforms is that a focus of any attempted hack will be a spear phishing e-mail. Tricking users into entering their details may be simple, but it can be very serious. For example the Reuters site, which was attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-Assad group of “hacktivists,” integrates more than thirty third-party/advertising network agencies into its content. A breach on any of these could compromise the agency’s whole infrastructure.

  • Food securityForeign investment in agriculture increases productivity of subsistence farming

    The improved infrastructure brought about by foreign investment could increase the productivity of subsistence farmlands in countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and could mean these lands can feed at least 300 million people around the world. This is compared to about 190 million people that could be fed if the land was left tended to by the local population. The most targeted countries for land grabs are Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the former Sudan. Altogether, these nations account for around 82 percent of the total food calories that can be produced by acquired croplands worldwide.

  • EnergyNet energy analysis should regarded as a standard policy tool: scientists

    It takes energy to make energy, whether it is renewable or a fossil fuel. Net energy analysis gauges the sustainability of energy technologies over time. Net energy analysis provides a quantitative way to compare the amount of energy a technology produces over its lifetime with the energy required to build and maintain it. The technique can complement conventional energy planning, which often focuses on minimizing the financial cost of energy production, Stanford researchers say.

  • PrivacyPrivacy advocates worried about new Senate cybersecurity bill

    Privacy groups are concerned that a new Senate cybersecurity bill could give the NSA unrestricted access to personal information of Americans. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a counterpart to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which passed the House in 2013, would create a “gaping loophole in existing privacy law,” several privacy advocacy groups wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

  • TransportationHeavier oil train traffic in western U.S. causes safety worries

    In May, following extensive debate regarding security concerns, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx ordered railroads to share oil train shipment information with states, in order better to inform first responders should an accident occur. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, there were 110,000 carloads of oil. Each train can carry three million gallons of oil.

  • ImmigrationU.S. should re-evaluate definition of skilled workers in immigration policy: experts

    A new study suggests the United States should re-evaluate its definition of skilled workers to include informal skills of migrant workers. The study identifies lifelong human capital — knowledge and technical and social skills — acquired and transferred throughout these migrants’ careers. The researchers discovered that skills among these migrants not only include basic education and English, but also technical and social skills and competencies acquired informally on and off the job throughout their lives — skills that are used in construction, domestic, retail and hospitality work.

  • BioterrorismCongress may modify the amount, manner by which Project BioShield procurements are funded

    In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act to provide the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents. Among other things, the authority allows the government to guarantee a market for CBRN medical countermeasures. Under this provision, the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) may obligate funds to purchase countermeasures that still need up to ten more years of development. Since 2004, HHS has obligated approximately $3.309 billion to guarantee a government market for countermeasures against anthrax, smallpox, botulism, radiation, and nerve agents. Another provision established a process through which the HHS secretary may temporarily allow the emergency use of countermeasures which lack Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The 113th Congress may also consider modifying the amount and manner by which it funds Project BioShield procurements.

  • Nuclear powerAs Baby Boomers retire, nuclear industry faces manpower shortages

    Many nuclear power plants in the United States are facing an employment and training crisis as their largely Baby Boomer-generation (1946-64) workforce begins to retire. The nuclear industry is making an effort to usher in new and better-trained workers — many from university programs and former military service — to fill in the gaps created by retirement-aged engineers.