Business

  • Recession-related cost measures blamed for U.S. infrastructure lagging development

    In an alarming fall, the United States is currently ranked 19th in the quality of its infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Additionally, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the country a D+ on its annual Infrastructure Report Card, arguing that $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 for maintenance and upgrades.

  • Feds, rail operators, Washington State embroiled in crude oil shipment disclosure dispute

    Last month the U.S. Department of Transportation(DOT) ordered rail carriers with trains carrying crude oil to notify state officials in the states through which the trains pass about the volume, schedule, and routes of these trains. The amount of crude oil transported by trains has grown dramatically – from 6,000 carloads in 2005 to more than 400,000 carloads in 2013. The increase in the volume of crude oil shipping has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the number of accidents and derailments. DOT’s order was meant to allow states’ first responders to be prepared, but the railways treat shipping information as “security sensitive” and refuse to share it with states’ officials unless the information is distributed to emergency response groups for planning purposes only. Washington State says that state laws require that such information be made public.

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  • Security guard industry lacks standards, training

    Despite playing a more important role in the wake of 9/11, the security guard industry remains plagued by inadequate training and standards in many states, new study of the $7 billion-a-year industry finds. Formal training of the nation’s one million-plus private security officers is widely neglected, a surprising finding when contrasted with other private occupations such as paramedics, childcare workers, and even cosmetologists.

  • Adm. Michael Rogers: Businesses must “own” cybersecurity threats

    Cybersecurity threats are a vital issue for the nation, and like the Defense Department, businesses must own the problem to successfully carry out their missions, DOD’s top cybersecurity expert told a forum of businesspeople.

  • DHS relaxes employment rules for H-1B visa spouses

    Last month DHS proposed two new rule changes which would allow H-4 dependent spouses of highly skilled immigrant workers who hold an H-1B, E, or L visas, to work legally in the United States. Current regulations prohibit work authorization for spouses of said visa holders. Some immigration advocates say the proposal is too narrow since getting employers to sponsor an H-1B visa applicant is already challenging.

  • Urgent need: Dirty bomb detection technology which does not rely on helium

    It has taken 4.7 billion years for Earth to accumulate our helium reserves, but these reserves are dwindling at an alarming rate, and will be exhausted by around 2025. The supplies we have originated in the very slow radioactive alpha decay that occurs in rocks, and there is no chemical way to manufacture helium. The Department of Defense and other agencies use Helium-3 (He-3) to detect neutrons emanating from Special Nuclear Material (SNM) in order to counter the threat of nuclear-fueled explosives such as dirty bombs. Since the supply of He-3 is rapidly drying up, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) awarded a $2.8 million contract to Alion Science and Technology to develop a replacement technology which will detect neutrons without relying on He-3.

  • Roots of Trust research focuses on protecting cyber physical systems

    “Roots of Trust” refers to a set of security functions in a device or system, which are implicitly trusted by the device’s operating system and applications, and which constitute the foundation for security. The Cyber Security Research Alliance (CSRA) the other day said it will prioritize research in Roots of Trust for cyber physical systems (CPS), to help address growing cyber security threats to public and private critical infrastructure.

  • Federal oversight of ammonium nitrate exceedingly weak

    A new Government Accountability Office(GAO) report found that the federal government has no way of fully knowing which chemical facilities stockammonium nitrate, a widely used fertilizer which was the cause of the explosion last year at a West, Texas fertilizer plan, which resulted in the death of fourteen people – and which was used by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City twenty years ago. Poor data sharing with states, outdated federal policies, and numerous industry exemptions have contributed to a weak federal oversight. Without improved monitoring, regulators “will not know the extent to which dangerous conditions at some facilities may continue to exist,’’ the GAO report said.

  • U.K. forwarders “not surprised” by U.S. climb-down on 100 percent container scanning

    One leader of the international freight industry says it was “hardly surprising” to hear the recent news that the United States has delayed new rules requiring all cargo containers entering the United States to be security scanned prior to departure from overseas for two more years, amid questions over whether this is the best way to protect U.S. ports.

  • NRC will not require nuclear plants to transfer waste to dry cask storage

    Cooling pools on the grounds of U.S. nuclear plants, where toxic nuclear waste is stored, are near capacity, and in 2010 the plug was pulled on the Yucca Mountain centralized national nuclear waste repository, meaning that for the foreseeable future radioactive will continue to accumulate on site at the more than 100 nuclear power plants. Lawmakers called on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to require nuclear plants to hurry the transfer of spent fuel from the cooling pools to dry cask storage, which scientists consider much safer. The NRC, however, has decided that, at least for now, there is now reason to require nuclear plants to do so.

  • Canada donates Biosafety Level 3 modular laboratory to Caribbean health authorities

    The Biological Security program of Canada’s Global Partnership Program(GPP) has officially transferred a new biological containment laboratory to the Caribbean Public Health Agency(CARPHA). The Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) modular laboratory facility, a first in the Caribbean and located in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, improves diagnostic capabilities for human and veterinary pathogens with high epidemic potential.

  • Leidos awarded DHS Plum Island biolab contract

    DHS awarded Reston, Virginia-based Leidos a prime contract to support and supplement the Science and Technology (S&T) Agricultural Scientific Program at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). The single-award time and materials (T&M) contract has a one-year base period of performance, four one-year options, and a total contract value of approximately $12 million if all options are exercised. Work will be performed in Orient Point, New York.

  • Extreme weather exposes the toxic legacy of an industrial past

    The increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather events in the United States carries with it yet another, more insidious danger: it forces to the surface toxic lead from long-shuttered smelters. Lead smelters had mostly closed down in the United States by the 1980s, but they left behind millions of tons of toxic waste. One example: In 2011, Joplin, Missouri suffered a devastating tornado which killed 158 people and flattened much of the city. Decades of lead processing in the Joplin area had created about 150 million tons of toxic wastes, with about 9 million tons still remaining after a federal Superfund cleanup. The 2011 tornado forced some of the buried lead to the surface, forcing Joplin to spend $3.5 million so far on lead clean up. The city now requires builders to test for lead, and clean up any traces, before beginning construction.

  • U.S. govt. the largest employer of undocumented immigrants

    At least 60,000 undocumented immigrants have worked at federal detention centers while waiting for an immigration court to hear their case. While detained, many immigrants work as cooks and janitors at federal and privately-run detention centers, often making less than $1 a day. The cheap labor saves the federal government and private companies at least $40 million a year by making it unnecessary to pay outside contractors the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Since about half of all immigrants in immigration court typically win their case, this means that that tens of thousands of legal immigrants are working for less than a dollar a day in immigration detention facilities.

  • Canada is not doing enough to prepare for, cope with natural, man-made disasters

    The 2013 Alberta floods cost more than $6 billion, making it the worst weather disaster in Canada’s history. Before 1990, only three Canadian disasters exceeded $500 million, but in the past ten years alone nine disasters have exceeded that amount. Disaster management experts said that while it may be understandable that corporate and municipal budgets for disaster training and preparations have been reduced during the economic slowdown, corporate and government leaders in Canada must consider how such reductions would impact the ability of communities to build adequately resilience systems against potential natural and manmade disasters.