Business

  • Sale of NYC historic Waldorf Astoria hotel to Chinese firm worries U.S. security officials

    Citing an espionage risk, U.S. officials are expressing concern over the sale of the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City to a Chinese insurance company. The Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group purchased the property from Hilton Worldwide on 6 October for $1.95 billion. One clause in the sale contract, referring to “a major renovation,” has raised eye brows in Western security services. Specifically, they worry that renovations and modifications to the structure could accommodate Chinese eavesdropping and cyber espionage equipment.

  • U.S. seeking innovative solutions for protecting healthcare workers on Ebola front lines

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), saying the agency is looking for opportunities to co-create, co-design, co-invest, and otherwise collaborate in the development, testing, and scaling of practical and cost-effective innovations to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. USAID notes that this funding mechanism will not support research that does not provide a clear path to development and testing of prevention and intervention strategies. Awards are in the range of $100,000 to $1million.

  • Surge in cyberattacks drives growth in cybersecurity insurance

    More than 3,000 American businesses were hacked in 2013, many of them small and mid-size firms without cybersecurity insurance. That surge in cyberattacks has led to a growing cybersecurity industry, with firms offering products and solutions to secure network systems. Insurance companies are also claiming their stake in the booming industry. Today, roughly fifty U.S. companies offer cybersecurity insurance. American businesses will spend up to $2 billion on cyber-insurance premiums this year, a 67 percent increase from the $1.2 billion spent in 2013.

  • U.S., U.K. war-game failure of too-big-to-fail banks

    On Monday U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew, his British counterpart Chancellor George Osborne, along with the heads of both countries’ central banks, participated in a simulation to test the actions that would follow should a major transatlantic bank went under. The scenario allows U.S. and British authorities to “make sure we can handle an institution that was previously regarded as too big to fail,” according to Osborne. War games have long been used to build trust and co-operation among allies and adversaries.

  • Bay Area’s infrastructure more resilient, but a major tremor would paralyze region’s economy

    Twenty-five years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area suffered the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed sixty-three people, injured 3,700, destroyed 366 businesses and 11,000 homes, and caused $6 billion in property damage. Since then, bridges and roads have been rebuilt to withstand more powerful quakes, but seismic safety experts say more could be done to protect property and human life. A major earthquake is not likely completely to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge or other major infrastructure developments, but the Bay Area’s $535 billion a year economy will come to a halt for months and even years due to weakened critical infrastructure.

  • Simulations reveal California’s resilience to extreme droughts

    The results from a series of several-year-old computer simulations reveal that the state of California may be more resilient to long-term drought conditions than previously believed. “The results were surprising,” said one of the scientists involved in the study. “California has a remarkable ability to weather extreme and prolonged droughts from an economic perspective.”

  • U.S. should emulate allies in pushing for public-private cybersecurity collaboration

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month the formation of a national cyber defense authority to defend civilian networks under the leadership of the Israel National Cyber Bureau.The “U.S. government has a lot to learn from successful examples in allied nations. With more compromise and reform, there is plenty of reason for hope,” says a cybersecurity expert, adding that “a cybersecurity partnership between government, business, and individuals built on trust is possible, and would promote more resilient networks as well as creative thinking on cybersecurity.”

  • Debate continues over releasing Pennsylvania crude oil shipment information

    Shipment of crude oil by rail in the United States has increased from 800,000 barrels a day in 2012 to 1.4 million in 2014. In western Pennsylvania, over seventy-five million gallons of crude oil are passing through Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to refineries in Philadelphia. Release of the recently classified rail transport records by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) was a result of a federal mandate ordering railway companies to share information on interstate shipments of crude oil with state emergency management officials.Railway companies claim that releasing the information threatens security and is commercially sensitive.

  • Disaster preparation business booms

    Concerns about future manmade and natural disasters are driving the U.S. market for survival kits. Across the country, families are developing disaster plans, and some are even loading up on food and supplies to help them live through a biological attack, a catastrophic earthquake, or a pandemic flu. More and more businesses are targeting preppers, — people who actively prepare for a doomsday scenario.

  • Reliance on BP, feeble regulations make U.S. partially culpable in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    A recent ruling by a federal judge that BP was “grossly negligent” in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico placed the majority of blame on the multinational oil and gas company. Although not on trial in this case, the federal government was also culpable in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, according to a new paper. Based on reports from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, the Chief Council’s Report and other government documents, the report’s authors determined that the government’s reliance on market-based accountability mechanisms and its failure to implement a regulatory process based on a mutually agreed upon set of robust standards and voluntary information disclosure led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

  • Background-checks company lays off 2,500 after losing government contracts

    USISof Falls Church, Virginia has laid off more than 2,500 employees after it lost contracts with the Office of Personnel Management(OPM) and DHS. Until recently, USIS performed many of the background checks for federal security clearances, but after the firm suffered a cyberattack in August, OPM decided not to renew two major contracts which expired on 30 September 2014.

  • New Web privacy system would revolutionize surfing safety

    Scientists have built a new system that protects Internet users’ privacy while increasing the flexibility for Web developers to build Web applications that combine data from different Web sites, dramatically improving the safety of surfing the Web. The system, “Confinement with Origin Web Labels,” or COWL, works with Mozilla’s Firefox and the open-source version of Google’s Chrome Web browsers and prevents malicious code in a Web site from leaking sensitive information to unauthorized parties, while allowing code in a Web site to display content drawn from multiple Web sites — an essential function for modern, feature-rich Web applications.

  • Securiport’s advanced biometric immigration control systems help in fight against Ebola

    Securiport says it is supporting the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa by providing advanced biometric screening technologies and comprehensive contact tracing data analytics to help governments and health organizations monitor and control the spread of the virus. The company’s immigration control systems are now in place across a total of seven West African nations, including Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.

  • Boston developers continue to build on the waterfront, but take account of sea level rise

    The threat of rising sea levels has not discouraged property developers and buyers in Boston from investing in multi-million dollar condos located along the city’s waterfront. Boston developers are keeping copies of key building records off-site in case electricity shuts down during a storm surge. Some developers are moving mechanical systems from the basements of high rises to several stories above ground, to ensure power and critical systems are intact during a flood.

  • Petroleum industry, railroads want deadline extension for phasing out old tank cars

    Transportation of crude oil by train jumped to 408,000 in 2013, from 11,000 in 2009, partly due to the rise in production from North Dakota’s Bakken region, where oil production has surpassed pipeline capacity. The increasing use of rail to transport crude oil has resulted in several accidents. The Department of Transportation want to phase out older tank cars — because they have thinner shells and are thus more vulnerable to accidents when transporting flammable liquids like crude oil – and replace them with new, safer tank cars with thicker shells. The petroleum industry and U.S. railroads want DOT to extend the deadline for phasing out old tankers from two years to four years.