• Growing risks in flood-prone areas due to economic growth more than climate change

    Worldwide economic losses from river flooding could increase 20-fold by the end of the twenty-first century if no further actions on flood risk reduction are taken. There are two contributors to risks associated with river flooding. Floods’ frequency and severity (both influenced by climate change); and the exposure to floods of people and economic assets (determined by economic activity and human residency in flood-prone areas). Researchers calculate that in many flood-prone regions of the world, more than 70 percent of the increase in flood-related risks over the coming decades can be attributed to economic growth and residency patterns in flood prone areas.

  • Iranian hackers attacked New York dam

    In 2013, Iranian government hackers infiltrated the control system of Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye, New York, located twenty-five miles from New York City. Using a cellular modem, the hackers could have released larger volumes of upstream water without warning. As dams go, the Rye dam is small at about 20ft tall. There was some confusion initially, as DHS and DOE thought a similarly named dam in Oregon — the Arthur R. Bowman Dam – was the one hacked. The Oregon dam, at 245 feet, is much bigger, and hacking its control systems could have had much more serious consequences.

  • U.S. reliance on nonfuel mineral imports increasing

    Key nonfuel mineral commodities that support the U.S. economy and national security are increasingly being sourced from outside the U.S., according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report. Over the past sixty years, there has been an increase in the number and diversity of nonfuel commodities that the United States imports as well as the extent to which the United States is import reliant.

  • Terrorists used encrypted apps to plan, coordinate Paris attacks

    The leaders of U.S. and European law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been explicit in their warnings: commercially available communication devices equipped with end-to-end encryption software make it impossible for security services to track terrorists plotting an attack – or monitor the terrorists’ communication while the attack is under way. Sources close to the investigation of the 13 November Paris terrorist attacks have now confirmed that the terrorists used the encrypted WhatsApp and Telegram messengers apps to communicate for a period before the attacks – and with each other during the attacks. What was said in those encrypted messages, and who sent and received these messages, may never be known, because the companies themselves do not have the key – or back door – to decrypt these messages. Thus, security services could not monitor such messages before an attack in order to prevent it, and cannot read these message after an attack to learn more about the terrorists’ network and support system.

  • Recovering rare earth elements from coal mining waste

    West Virginia could become one of the country’s significant sources for rare earth elements (REE), the “vitamins of modern industry,” without the expense or environmental cost of opening new mines. A new project brings together academia, state regulators, and industry to collaborate on finding a successful recovery technology for total REEs from acid mine drainage, or AMD. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone, it is estimated that AMD generates more than 45,000 tons of total REEs per year or about three times the current U.S. demand for total REEs.

  • The economic impact of refugees in Sweden

    The world currently has more refugees and internally displaced persons than it has had since the Second World War. Many countries are reluctant to take refugees in. Security is a recent concern, but a major underlying reason is the perceived financial burden which would result from larger intake of refugees. But what, in reality, is the economic impact of these new arrivals? Since 2005, Sweden has taken in more refugees per capita than any other European country. A detailed study of the Swedish case shows that the acceptance of those refugees has resulted in a net fiscal redistribution from the non-refugee population to refugees corresponding to 1.0 percent of Swedish GDP – with four-fifths of the redistribution due to lower public per capita revenues from refugees. A clear takeaway from this research is that policies should focus on integrating refugees into the labor market as quickly as possible.

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  • U.S. facing looming grain failures

    Across the United States, record quantities of corn and soybeans have been harvested in recent years. However, according to new research, this trend may soon change. “By midcentury,” the interdisciplinary team reports, “temperatures in Illinois will likely be closer to those of today’s mid-South, and precipitation will range somewhere between that of today’s East Texas and that of the Carolinas.” In the face of a rapidly changing climate, the researchers call for a U.S. Midwest field research network to address crucial agricultural challenges.

  • Improving active shooter response

    When an active shooter strikes, every second counts. The sooner law enforcement can respond and the more information they have, the more lives can be saved. Battelle’s SiteGuard Active Shooter Response (ASR) provides a high tech, integrated approach to help protect building occupants in an active shooter event. The ASRcombines gunshot sensors with building security and communication systems to provide critical information to law enforcement and building occupants. As soon as the sensors detect a gunshot, SiteGuard ASR activates a series of predetermined actions and automated responses vital to occupant and first responder safety and optimized response.

  • Protecting the U.S. electrical grid from cyberattack

    Across the United States, 3,200 separate organizations own and operate electrical infrastructure. The widely dispersed nature of the nation’s electrical grid and associated control systems has a number of advantages, but since the late 1990s, cost pressures have driven the integration of conventional information technologies into these independent industrial control systems, resulting in a grid which is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack, either through direct connection to the Internet or via direct interfaces to utility IT systems. DARPA is soliciting proposal for creating automated systems to restore power within seven days or less after a cyberattack on the grid.

  • Following indictments, China’s military reduces its commercial cybeespionage against American companies

    The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reduced its cyberespionage activity targeting American companies since five PLA officers were indicted by the Department of Justice in May 2014. “The indictments had an amazing effect in China, more than we could have hoped for,” said one expert. In April, Obama signed an executive order calling for impose economic sanctions on individuals and entities that take part in or benefit from illicit cyber-activities such as commercial espionage. “If the indictments had the effect of getting the PLA to scale down, then sanctions likely will have a wider effect on other Chinese state-sponsored groups,” says another expert.

  • DHS S&T calls on non-traditional performers to offer solutions to tough threats

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) last week announced its first Innovation Other Transaction Solicitation (OTS) aimed at non-traditional performers such as technology start-ups to offer solutions to some of the toughest threats facing DHS and the homeland security mission. Awarded through Other Transaction Solicitation HSHQDC-16-R-B0005, the first call for proposals is looking for solutions to improve situational awareness and security measures for protecting Internet of Things (IoT) domains.

  • Better FEMA options for increasing the affordability of flood insurance

    FEMA currently does not have the policy analysis capacity or necessary data to comprehensively analyze different options for making flood insurance more affordable. A new report identifies an approach for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to evaluate policy options for making premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) more affordable for those who have limited ability to pay.

  • FBI unable to break 109 encrypted messages Texas terror attack suspect sent ahead of attack

    FBI director James Comey told lawmakers this week that one of the suspects in the foiled terror attack in Garland, Texas, in May had exchanged 109 messages with sources in a “terrorist location” overseas ahead of the attack. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, however, have not been able to break into and read those messages because they were exchanged on devices equipped with end-to-end encryption software which, security services in the United States and Europe argue, make it impossible to monitor and track terrorists and criminals.

  • Tijuana airport’s bridge-connected terminals straddle U.S.-Mexico border

    The Tijuana airport is only the second airport in the world straddling an international border, with terminals on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Before the bridge opened, travelers had to drive a rental car or be driven in shuttle buses for about fifteen minutes to a crowded land crossing, where they often had to wait several hours to enter San Diego by car or on foot. On the new airport bridge, it takes passengers five minutes to walk to a U.S. border inspector.

  • 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.