Business

  • More assessment of dispersants used in response to oil spills needed

    Chemical dispersants are widely used in emergency responses to oil spills in marine environments as a means of stimulating microbial degradation of oil. After the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, dispersants were applied to the sea surface and deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the latter of which was unprecedented. S new study argues for further in-depth assessments of the impacts of dispersants on microorganisms to guide their use in response to future oil spills.

  • Invisible inks to help foil counterfeiters

    Counterfeiting is very big business worldwide, with $650 billion per year lost globally, according to the International Chamber of Commerce. Scientists have invented sophisticated fluorescent inks that one day could be used as multicolored barcodes for consumers to authenticate products that are often counterfeited. Snap a photo with your smartphone, and it will tell you if the item is real and worth your money.

  • More proof needed that PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is safe from earthquakes: NRC

    Despite repeated assertions by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is safe from earthquakes, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has ordered PG&E to provide more proof. Critics of the plant’s continuing operation say the order confirms concerns that faults surrounding Diablo Canyon are capable of more ground motion than the reactors were built to withstand and that the plant is in violation of its operating license and should be closed immediately.

  • FEMA considering overhauling the National Flood Insurance Program

    Federal legislators and officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are trying to overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program which relies on eighty-three companies to sell policies, collection premiums, and calculate damages after disasters. The program covers roughly 5.2 million homes and businesses nationwide. The move comes just as FEMA is in talks to settle almost 1,800 lawsuits filed by homeowners claiming they were underpaid on flood insurance claims after Superstorm Sandy. The flood insurance program was launched in 1968 after private insurers increased their coverage prices due to newer risk assessments, leaving most homeowners unable to afford them.

  • LA to require seismic standards for new cellphone towers

    Last Friday Los Angeles became the first U.S. city to approve seismic standards for new cellphone towers, part of an effort to reduce communications vulnerabilities in case a large earthquake should strike. The Los Angeles plan requires new freestanding cellphone towers to be built to the same seismic standards as public safety facilities. Cellphone towers are currently built only strong enough not to collapse during a major earthquake. There are not required to be strong enough to continue working.

  • A model for bioenergy feedstock/vegetable double-cropping systems

    Much attention has been given to dedicated, perennial bioenergy crops to meet the revised Renewable Fuel Standard mandating production of thirty-six billion gallons of biofuel by the year 2022. Even so, concern remains over the impending need to convert as much as thirty million acres of U.S. crop land, which would include food crops, to land for perennial energy crops in order to meet that demand. Researchers realize that biomass feedstocks will need to come from many different sources, including crop residues, forest residues, and municipal waste. The use of double-cropping systems — a winter annual biomass crop is grown then harvested in the spring, followed by a summer annual crop — has been suggested as an additional option.

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  • Major food companies must adapt to growing global water risks

    Escalating water competition, combined with weak government regulations, increasing water pollution, and worsening climate change impacts, is creating unprecedented water security risks for the food industry. In California, an estimated half-million acres of farmland have already been fallowed by a prolonged drought, causing more than $1 billion of economic losses for the agriculture sector. Major U.S. food companies need to adopt far stronger practices to use limited global water resources more efficiently, according to a new report. The report ranks the U.S. thirty-seven largest food companies on how effectively they are managing precious freshwater supplies. While a relatively small number of firms are taking broad actions to manage water risks in their operations and supply chains — Unilever, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, General Mills, and Kellogg, among those — most have a long way to go in using water more sustainably, the report concludes.

  • Using UV light to separate rare earth metals

    Europium and yttrium are two rare earth metals that are commonly used in sustainable technology and high-tech applications. As these rare earth metals are difficult to mine, there is a great interest in recycling them. Researchers have discovered a method to separate europium and yttrium with UV light instead of with traditional solvents. Their findings offer new opportunities for the recycling of fluorescent lamps and low-energy light bulbs.

  • In Kenya, human health and livestock health are linked

    It is that 300 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa depend on their livestock as a main source of livelihood and nutrition. If a farmer’s goats, cattle, or sheep are sick in Kenya, how is the health of the farmer? Though researchers have long suspected a link between the health of farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa and the health of their livestock, a team of veterinary and economic scientists has quantified the relationship for the first time in a study.

  • Drones could reach one million U.S. flights a day in twenty years

    The United States will reach one million unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flights per day within the next twenty years, given the right regulatory environment, according to new economic research. Only hobbyists and the do-it-yourself community now are allowed to fly UAS in the United States, enough to fuel a robust U.S. consumer market with the potential to reach $250 million by 2018. However, if the FAA remains on track to complete its line-of-sight rules for commercial operators within three years, the research foresees another $200 million in growth. Additionally, with the continued development of “sense and avoid” technology and FAA rules that foster “beyond-line-of-sight” operations, the U.S. UAS industry could become a $1 billion market.

  • São Paulo water crisis shows the failure of public-private partnerships

    São Paulo’s ongoing water crisis has left many of the city’s twenty million or more residents without tap water for days on end. Brazil’s largest metropolis is into its third month of water rationing, and some citizens have even taken to drilling through their basements to reach groundwater. Most commentators agree that the crisis is to blame on multiple factors, but few have questioned the role of the water company in charge: Sabesp. Just like the “natural monopolies” enjoyed by water companies in the United Kingdom, Sabesp has a publicly guaranteed monopoly, yet its profits are part-privatized — earlier this year it paid out R$252 million (US$83 million) in dividends. As is the case with other private companies, when deciding whether to make the necessary investments to prepare for possible water shortages, Sabesp has had to choose whether to safeguard the public supply or increase the value of its shares. As a result, the most essential resource of all has now become a struggle in São Paulo. Responsibility for this crisis lies with Sabesp and two decades of running water supply as a for-profit service. It is a failure of public-private partnership. As climate change and other environmental factors make water crises more likely, we better rethink the way water is managed worldwide.

  • States, cities vying to become U.S. “cyber hub”

    The global cybersecurity market reached $67 billion in 2011, and it is projected to grow as high as $156 billion by 2019. The need for cybersecurity solutions and experts is going to grow as more companies such as Sony Pictures, Target, Home Depot, and Chase are hacked, consumers demand better online security, and businesses become more aware of the potential cost to their sales and reputation if they do not provide cybersecurity. As private sector firms compete with government agencies for the best cyber professionals, cities and states are also competing to be the country’s “cyber hub.”

  • Spanish “kebab laws” worry, upset Muslim immigrants

    Withy persistent unemployment and worries about radicalization, more Spanish cities are placing limits on businesses typically owned and operated by immigrants from North Africa. In the city of Terragona, for examples, these regulations – informally called “kebab laws” — disallow commercial licenses to any kebab shops, dollar stores, or Internet cafes within 500 yards of existing ones. Additionally, these businesses would have to comply with stricter hygiene standards and business hours. Muslim leaders in Spain and civil rights advocates say these laws are a thinly veiled effort to discourage Muslim immigration.

  • Depletion of soil accelerates, putting human security at risk: Scientists

    Steadily and alarmingly, humans have been depleting Earth’s soil resources faster than the nutrients can be replenished. If this trajectory does not change, soil erosion, combined with the effects of climate change, will present a huge risk to global food security over the next century, warns a review paper authored by some of the top soil scientists in the country. The paper singles out farming, which accelerates erosion and nutrient removal, as the primary game changer in soil health.

  • Lawrence Lally, 1934-2015

    Lawrence Lally, the father of the Homeland Security News Wire’s publisher Grant Lally, passed a few days ago. Lawrence’s parents lost their Long Island publishing business during the Great Depression, but Lawrence never lost his interest in writing and publishing. He was a successful attorney and real estate developer, and he owned, developed, and was involved in many other businesses, but he found his involvement with the North Shore Leader, of which he was the publisher, to be among the most rewarding and fulfilling of his many ventures. He was also close to HSNW, and often discussed it with his son, Grant. Earlier this week the Leader published an obituary for Lawrence Lally, and we are publishing it in HSNW with the Leader’s permission.