• S&T selects RAND Corp. to operate new DHS research center

    DHS has selected the RAND Corporation to operate the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC), which will conduct technical and operational research and analysis to aid the department. The new center is a federally funded research and development center, and is funded under a five-year contract worth as much as $494.7 million.

  • Yahoo stealthily scanned customer e-mails on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies

    A report on Tuesday accuses Yahoo of secretly building a customized software program to search all of its customers’ incoming e-mails for specific information provided by the U.S. intelligence company. The company, complying with classified NSA and FBI directives, scanned hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts. Yahoo is the first U.S. Internet company to agree to such a blanket request.

  • Game theory research highlights fragility of common resources

    New research in game theory shows that people are naturally predisposed to over-use “common-pool resources” such as transportation systems and fisheries even if it risks failure of the system, to the detriment of society as a whole. The research could have implications for the management of engineered systems such as the power grid, communications systems, distribution systems, and online file sharing systems, along with natural systems such as fisheries.

  • Optimal strategies to cope with climate change depend on the pace of change

    What would we do differently if sea level were to rise one foot per century versus one foot per decade? Until now, most policy and research has focused on adapting to specific amounts of climate change and not on how fast that climate change might happen. Researchers, using sea-level rise as a case study, have developed a quantitative model that considers different rates of sea-level rise, in addition to economic factors, and shows how consideration of rates of change affect optimal adaptation strategies.

  • From 2012 to 2014, FBI submitted 561 Section215 applications: DOJ OIG

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) last week released a June 2016 report examining the FBI’s use of the investigative authority granted by Section 215 of the Patriot Act between 2012 and 2014. The report notes that from 2012 through 2014 the DOJ, on behalf of the FBI, submitted 561 Section 215 applications to the FISA Court, all of which were approved.

  • Florida tightens public notification rules for pollution incidents

    Last week Governor Rick Scott instructed Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Jon Steverson to issue an emergency rule that establishes new requirements for public notification of pollution incidents. The rule is to take effect immediately. Scott issued the instruction following the sewage spill in Pinellas County and the sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales facility.

  • Massive 2014 West Virginia chemical spill was preventable: CSB

    The Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) final report into the massive 2014 release by Freedom Industries of chemicals into the primary source of drinking water of Charleston, West Virginia, concludes that Freedom Industries failed to inspect or repair corroding tanks, and that as hazardous chemicals flowed into the Elk River, the water company and local authorities were unable effectively to communicate the looming risks to hundreds of thousands of affected residents, who were left without clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

  • California's almond boom ramped up water use, consumed wetlands

    Converting land in California to grow water-hungry almonds between 2007 and 2014 has led to a 27 percent annual increase in irrigation demands — despite the state’s historic drought. The expansion of almonds has also consumed 16,000 acres of wetlands and will likely put additional pressure on already stressed honeybee populations.

  • Judge questions whether Facebook is doing enough to deter terrorists from using its platform

    A federal judge harshly criticized Facebook, admonishing the social media giant for not be doing enough to deter terrorists from using its platform. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, New York, also accused Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Facebook’s lawyers — who had sent a first-year associate to a hearing — of not taking seriously lawsuits which touch on important issues such as international terrorism and the murder of innocents. “I think it is outrageous, irresponsible, and insulting,” Garaufis told the attorney. The judge ordered the law firm to send a more senior lawyer to the next hearing on 28 September because he wanted to “talk to someone who talks to senior management at Facebook.”

  • Abnormalities found in drinking water in Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region

    Chemists studying well water quality in the Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region found some abnormal chloride/bromide ratios, alongside evidence of dissolved gases and sporadic episodes of volatile organic compounds, all indicative of some contamination from industrial or agricultural activities in the area.

  • Radioactive wastewater enters Florida major aquifer after huge sinkhole opens up below fertilizer plant

    At least 980 million liters of highly contaminated water — including radioactive substances – has leaked into one of Florida’s largest sources of drinking water. The leak was caused by a huge sinkhole which opened up beneath a fertilizer plant near Tampa. The sinkhole caused highly contaminated waste water to pass into an aquifer which supplies much of the state. The waste water contained phosphogypsum, a by-product of fertilizer production, which contains naturally occurring uranium and radium. the Floridan aquifer aquifer underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, supplying groundwater to the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg.

  • Muslim woman in Sweden quits job after being instructed to shake hands with male colleagues

    A 20-year old Muslim woman in Helsingborg, Sweden has quit her job after being told she must shake hands with her male colleagues. She had told her fellow employees that she preferred not to shake hands with her male colleagues, and instead would rather put her hand on her heart and bow as a greeting. One of her male colleagues, however, took offense at her suggestion, complained to the school principal where she was working at the time, and the principal informed her that she must conform to the institution’s “core values” if she wanted to remain working there.

  • Cyber incidents’ cost not large compared with other business losses

    The cost of a typical cyber breach to an American company is much less than generally estimated, providing one possible explanation for why companies do not invest more to improve computer security, according to a new study. Researchers found that the typical cost of a breach was about $200,000 and that most cyber events cost companies less than 0.4 percent of their annual revenues. The $200,000 cost was roughly equivalent to a typical company’s annual information security budget. Given that finding, the study’s author says that businesses “lack a strong incentive to increase their investment in data security and privacy protection.”

  • Climate change means land use will need to change to keep up with global food demand

    Researchers warn that without significant improvements in technology, global crop yields are likely to fall in the areas currently used for production of the world’s three major cereal crops — wheat, maize, and rice — forcing production to move to new areas. This could lead to a major drop in productivity of these areas by 2050, along with a corresponding increase in potential productivity of many previously unused areas, pointing to a major shift in the map of global food production.

  • CBP MVSS border surveillance system: Another border program mired in delays

    Political parties debate crucial immigration issues, including a call for a new border wall, but an essential component — frequently neglected in the run up to the November elections — is the efficacy of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract acquisition and management process. What is frequently overlooked is the “business side” of CBP – but the business side of CBP is crucial to any immigration policy. CBP agents and officers finally are benefiting from the much-delayed delivery of the Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) surveillance technology program, but the status of the Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) and Ultra-Light Aircraft Detection (ULAD) surveillance technology programs has not been ascertained. After many needless Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA) delays and problematic contract management decisions, both the MVSS program, along with the Mobile Surveillance Capabilities (MSC) program, now appear to be dead in the water.