Business

  • U.S. imposes sanctions on three Nigerian Hezbollah operatives

    Nigeria is home to a small Shiite Lebanese population, many members of which emigrated for work in the mid-1900s.Roughly five million Shiites living in Nigeria support the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), an organization initially funded by Iran in the early 1980s to establish an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria.Last Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three Nigerians of Lebanese descent, accusing them of being part of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department (FRD) in the Nigerian capital Abuja.Hezbollah is operating in at least forty-five countries, eleven of which are in Africa.

  • Recycling valuable rare earth metals from old electronics

    Rare earth metals are valuable ingredients in a variety of modern technologies and are found in cell phones, hard disk drives in computers, and other consumer electronics, which are frequently discarded for newer and more up-to-date versions. U.S. consumers disposed of 3.4 million tons of electronics waste in 2012. Continuously increasing global demand for new consumer electronics in turn drives demand for rare-earth metals, which are difficult and costly to mine. Scientists have developed a two-step recovery process that makes recycling rare earth metals easier and more cost-effective.

  • Florida lawmakers want homeowners to have more flood insurance options

    Lawmakers in Florida are planning for a future in which coastal communities can no longer depend on the federal government for affordable flood insurance coverage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood program is facing insolvency after recent disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, so Congress has moved to increaseflood insurance rates across the nation.Legislation proposed by Florida state senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) will give homeowners more coverage options in the local private insurance market. If passed, Brandes’s bill could lower premiums by excluding coverage of a detached garage or covering only the value of a home’s mortgage rather than its full replacement cost.

  • DHS to lead anti-cybercrime campaign

    DHS is gearing up to be the leader in the White House’s campaign to stop cybercrime. President Barack Obama has called cyberspace the “wild west” and that citizens as well as the private sector are looking to the government to be the sheriff. Obama has signed an executive order to promote information sharing between the private and public sector, but many tech companies are hesitant to provide the government cyberthreat information.Under DHS’s proposal, both private companies and government agencies will submit details of previous or current cyberattacks into a shared database hosted by DHS’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. Participating entities will then be able to tap into that database to learn about potential attacks targeted at their respective industries.

  • Security at U.S. chemical plants, and monitoring that security, still fall short

    Security experts, citing a critical Senate report, are warning that the effort by industry and the government to secure U.S. chemical facilities against terrorist attacks has so far been lackluster at best. The Senate report, sponsored by former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), found that after eight years and $595 million dollars spent on efforts to further chemical plant security, there had been only thirty-nine compliance inspections of the 4,011 national facilities at risk. In any event, the current chemical facility security policies apply only to a fraction of the facilities which produce, store, or transport toxic materials around the country. The experts hope that H. R. 4007, which reformed and renewed the 2007 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), and which became Public Law No: 113-254 on 18 December 2014, will improve and accelerate the security work needed at U.S. chemical facilities.

  • Spouses of H-1B visa holders may apply for their own work permits

    As the White House works to lift an injunction placed by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen to prevent the issuing of temporary work permits and deferred deportation to some undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents, the Obama administration said on Tuesday that it will move forward with another immigration reform measure it announced last November. Beginning 26 May, spouses of foreign tech workers who hold H-1B visas will be able to apply for work permits of their own.Silicon Valley leaders applauded the measure.

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  • Cost of derailments of oil-carrying trains over the next two decades: $4.5 billion

    A 2014 CSX derailment led to roughly 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilling in and around the James River, West Virginia. Another CSX train derailed last week in the West Virginia town of Mount Carbon. The explosion that followed forced about 1,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The United States will likely experience more oil train derailments as long as Bakken crude oil is transported via rail from the Northern Plains’ Bakken region to U.S. refineries. Oil train accidents often lead to pipeline advocates pushing for more pipelines, but data from PHMSA shows that while oil trains have more frequent accidents, pipelines accidents cause much larger spills.

  • Obama’s cybersecurity initiative: a start but businesses – and individuals – need to do more

    By Frank J Cilluffo and Sharon L Cardash

    The linchpin of President Obama’s recently launched cybersecurity initiative is to encourage the private sector to share information to better defend against cyberattacks. Yet U.S. companies have historically been wary of openly talking about their cybersecurity efforts with competitors and with government — for good reason. Many businesses fear that sharing threat-related information could expose them to liability and litigation, undermine shareholder or consumer confidence, or introduce the potential for leaks of proprietary information. For some companies, Edward Snowden’s revelations of sweeping government surveillance programs have reinforced the impulse to hold corporate cards close to the vest. Yet on the heels of a deluge of high-profile cyberattacks and breaches against numerous U.S. companies, we may finally have reached a tipping point, where potential harm to reputation and revenue now outweighs the downside of disclosure from a corporate perspective. Obama’s executive order is thus a spur to get the ball rolling but, frankly, there is a limit to what government alone can (and should) do in this area. Changes in attitudes and behaviors are needed across the board, right down to families and individuals.

  • Overcoming problems, risks associated with rare earth metals

    Numerous metallic elements – called rare earth materials — are regarded as critical: they play an ever more important role in future technologies, but there is a high risk of supply bottlenecks. Small and medium-sized companies are also affected by this, and they are often not sure which of these materials they are dependent on. A recent event at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) aimed to demonstrate ways in which industry and the research community can counter supply risks and the consequence of the ever greater use of these raw materials.

  • DHS S&T announces licensing of cyber security technology

    The other day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced that technology from its Cyber Security Division Transition to Practice (TTP) program has been licensed for market commercialization. This is S&T’s second technology that has successfully gone through the program to the commercial market. The technology, Hyperion, developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is a malware forensics detection and software assurance technology which has been licensed to R&K Cyber Solutions LLC, a Manassas, Virginia-based application development and cyber solution company.

  • Obama proposes a single federal agency to monitor, enforce food safety standards

    Some eighty-seven million Americans are sickened each year by food contamination, 371,000 are hospitalized with food-related illness, and 5,700 die from food-related disease. The GAO says that the country’s food safety system is “high-risk” because of “inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources.” At least fifteen different government agencies have some role in approving the foods Americans eat. The White House proposes having a single agency — the Food Safety Administration, housed within HHS — “provide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards.”

  • European grain yield stagnation partially caused by climate change

    The European Union led the world in wheat production and exports in 2014-15. Yet Europe is also the region where productivity has slowed the most. Yields of major crops have not increased as much as would be expected over the past twenty years, based on past productivity increases and innovations in agriculture. Finding the causes of that stagnation is key to understanding the trajectory of the global food supply. Stanford University’s researchers say climate trends account for 10 percent of that stagnation.

  • U.S. drone companies: FAA’s proposed rules “onerous”

    A week after the Federal Aviation Authority(FAA) released its proposed rulesfor the commercial operation of small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, several American companies are considering moving their existing or future drone operations to Europe, where, these companies contend, regulations governing drone use are less onerous.

  • Data breaches notwithstanding, many companies still blasé about cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity industry analysts predicted that the 2014 data breaches which plagued Target, Home Depot, and JPMorgan – to name but a few — would elevate information security to “top priority concern” among corporate executives. This has not been the case, as recent surveys of chief information security officers (CISOs) and technology executives at the world’s largest companies show mixed attitudes at best.

  • Coping with fracking-induced earthquakes

    A new study provides a case for increasing transparency and data collection to enable strategies for mitigating the effects of human-induced earthquakes caused by wastewater injection associated with oil and gas production in the United States. The study suggests that it is possible to reduce the hazard of induced seismicity through management of injection activities.