• It’s time to repeal the gun industry’s exceptional legal immunity

    Coming up with effective and realistic solutions to curb gun violence is not easy. Guns pose a tricky dilemma, because they can be used to do good or bad things. They can be used to commit heinous crimes, but they can be used to protect lives as well. The challenge for lawmakers is to come up with ways to reduce the risk of criminal misuse of guns while preserving and even promoting the likelihood of guns being used in beneficial ways. Ensuring that every firearm manufacturer and dealer operates as safely and responsibly as possible should be one piece of the puzzle. A key way to ensure that gun companies have the right incentives would be to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Enacted in 2005, this federal law gave gun sellers a special immunity from legal responsibilities, which is not enjoyed by any other industry. Gun manufacturers and dealers should not be subject to any extraordinary forms of liability that do not apply to other products. They should not be liable, for example, merely because a firearm is a weapon that is capable of being used to do harm. But if a gun manufacturer or dealer fails to take basic, reasonable precautions in distributing products, it should be held accountable under the law just as an irresponsible company in any other business would be. With the risks of firearms in the wrong hands becoming ever more apparent, Congress should reconsider its regrettable decision to give the gun industry special immunity from legal responsibility.

  • With Diablo Canyon’s future unclear, California’s nuclear age may come to an end

    California’s nuclear power age may be coming to an end, as the company which owns the last operating nuclear power plant in the state said it would seek to extend the aging plant’s operational license. The Diablo Canyon plant faces daunting safety, business, and environmental challenges. Thirty years ago it was seen as key to California’s energy future, but worries about earthquakes, concerns about the environment, and cost-attractive energy alternative make Diablo Canyon’s future bleak.

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  • Unmanned Maritime Systems 2015 conference: “Reliability, Economy, Endurance”

    The theme of the Unmanned Maritime Systems 2015 conference, being held 7-9 December 2015 in Arlington, Virginia, is “Reliability, Economy, Endurance: Requirements for Next-Generation Unmanned Surface and Undersea Systems.” The organizers note that there is a growing demand for Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS) as today’s geopolitical environment poses a number of unique security challenges in the maritime domain. Advances in power, robotics, computing, sensors, and navigation technologies drive a growing DoD demand for unmanned systems that can provide increased autonomy, persistent resilience, and functionality with decreased risk and expense, showing their value across multiple applications, including otherwise dull, dirty, or dangerous missions.

  • Good apps talking to bad Web sites behind your back

    In one of the first studies to analyze behind-the-scenes behaviors of good applications, researchers conducted a large-scale analysis of URLs embedded in 13,500 free android apps downloaded from Google Play. The apps tested were created by reputable developers and downloaded by many people, among them popular social media, shopping, news and entertainment apps. The researchers found that almost 9 percent of popular apps downloaded from Google Play interact with Web sites that could compromise users’ security and privacy; 15 percent talked to bad Web sites (with intentions that vary from harming devices, stealing confidential data or annoying users with spam); and 73 percent talked to low-reputation Web sites(those receiving a Web of Trust rating lower than 60/100).

  • New cybersecurity legislation would shield companies from public records laws

    A legislation which passed both houses of Congress, but has not yet signed into law by the president, aims to encourage companies and organizations to share with the U.S. government information about cyberattacks and cyberthreats they experience –but critics say there is a catch: the legislation would severely restrict what the public can learn about the program.

  • DHS’ RFP could do away with competition: PSC

    The Professional Services Council (PSC) is concerned that a proposed DHS research and development center could eliminate contractor competition. DHS issued an RFP on 14 September for a contract to operate the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, meant to be a replacement for the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI), which provides independent analysis of policy issues.

  • Tech companies: weakening encryption would only help the bad guys

    Leading technology companies — Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Twitter, Facebook, and fifty-six other technology companies — have joined forces to campaign against weakening end-to-end encryption, insisting that any weakening of encryption would be “exploited by the bad guys.” Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook recently asserted that “any backdoor is a backdoor for everyone.”

  • Encryption firm tightens access following Paris attacks

    Encrypted communications specialist Silent Circle, after learning that ISIS was recommending two of the company’s products — the encrypted Blackphone handset and Silent Phone applications for private messaging — to the organization’s followers, is taking steps to make it more difficult for terrorists and their followers to use these products.

  • Telegram IM app recalibrates policies after Paris attacks

    Pavel Durov, the creator of the popular instant messaging app Telegram, has said that following the Paris terrorist attacks, his company has blocked dozens of accounts associated with the jihadist Islamic State group. As is the case with other technology companies, Telegram is trying to negotiate the balance between privacy and security: the same privacy-enhancing technology which keeps customers’ communication private, also helps terrorists communicate with each other and plot attacks safe from monitoring and surveillance by intelligence agencies and law enforcement.

  • Paris terrorist attacks reignite debate over end-to-end encryption, back doors

    The exact way the terrorists who attacked France last Friday communicated with each other, and their handlers, in the run-up to the attack is not yet clear, but the attack has prompted law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Europe and the United States to renew their call to regulate the use of new encryption technologies which allow users to “go dark” and make it difficult, if not altogether impossible, to retrieve the contents of communication.

  • Global climate finance increases to $391 billion

    A new report about the world’s inventory of climate finance shows that more money than ever before — at least $391 billion — was invested in low-carbon and climate-resilient actions in 2014. Private actors invested $243 billion in renewable energies, a surge of 26 percent from 2013, which resulted in record solar PV and onshore wind deployment. Public finance reached at least $148 billion continuing its steady growth over the past three years. Also, 74 percent of total climate finance ($290 billion) and 92 percent ($222 billion) of private investment was raised and spent in the same country. The domestic preference of climate finance highlights the importance of domestic investment policy and support frameworks.

  • Investment portfolios may take short-term hits as a result of climate change sentiment

    A new report reveals that global investment portfolios could lose up to 45 percent as a consequence of short-term shifts in climate change sentiment. The report concluded that about half of this potential loss could be avoided through portfolio reallocation, while the other half is “unhedgeable,” meaning that investors cannot necessarily protect themselves from losses unless action on climate change is taken at a system level.

  • Finnish company to construct final disposal facility of spent nuclear fuel

    The Finnish government has granted a license to Finnish company Posiva for the construction of a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel. The spent fuel assemblies will be encapsulated and placed in the bedrock at a depth of about 400 meters for permanent disposal. The waste will be stored for around 100,000 years before its level of radioactivity begins to dissipate. “This is the world’s first authorization for the final repository of used nuclear waste,” Finland’s Economy Minister Olli Rehn said.

  • Oklahoma Corporation Commission shuts down oil wells to reduce threat to Cushing oil hub

    Cushing, Oklahoma, is the site of an immense oil tank farm, which presently stores fifty-four million barrels awaiting transfer to coastal refineries and plants. The tank farm is considered an integral and vital part of our national energy infrastructure. According to scientists, the integrity of the Cushing hub is now at risk because of fracking. Studies document that the recent disposal of millions of barrels of water into disposal wells, including those adjacent to the Cushing hub, have caused the rapid rise of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Oklahoma earthquakes have thus become a very real national security issue. Until federal expertise and support reaches Oklahoma, a potential human-made catastrophe could conceivably also become a national security disaster.

  • In the world of finance, consideration of climate change is now mainstream

    As climate changes become impossible to dismiss, how does the mainstream investor community respond? Are financial decisions taking full account of risks and opportunities related to climate change, or is the topic still virtually ignored in financial decision-making?