Business

  • Agriculture groups say bill would disrupt farming operations, decrease food production

    The Legal Workforce Act(LWAH.R. 1147), introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and approved this week by the House Judiciary Committee, could disrupt farming operations if it passes Congress. LWA requires employers in the United States, within three years, to use E-Verifyto verify whether employees are legally allowed to work in the country. Ag industry groups say that passing LWA without some sort of immigration reform for agricultural workers could lead to a $30 billion to $60 billion decrease in food production. The ag industry also notes that each of the two million hired farm employees supports two to three fulltime American jobs in the food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing, retail, and other sectors.

  • North Korea’s cyber warriors target Western critical infrastructure

    North Korea has a team of roughly 3,000 cyber soldiers dedicated to launching attacks at Western interests in the private and government sector, according to Kim Heung-gwang, a former professor at North Korea’s Hamhung University of Computer Technology, a key military training facility. Heung-gwang, urging Western governments to do more to counter North Korean hacking, said the country’s hackers are targeting Western nuclear power plants, transportation networks, and electrical utilities.

  • U.S. cracks down on “birth tourism”

    Each year, thousands of wealthy couples, mostly from China, the Middle East, Africa, and South Korea partake in what authorities have coined “birth tourism,” in which pregnant women pay to visit the United States and give birth, thereby making their child or children U.S. citizens. In most cases, the parents would also gain permanent U.S. resident status. Roughly 40,000 babies are born each year to women visiting the United States for the sole purpose of giving birth.

  • Philadelphia terror charges highlight mall kiosks security issues

    The arrest last week of Abror Habibov on terrorism finance charges has brought new scrutiny to the oversight and security of mall kiosk businesses. Habibov ran a series of largely unlicensed mall kiosks along the East Coast, where his employees sold kitchen wares and repaired cell phones. He was arrested after being caught organizing support with two other individuals for ISIS operations in Syria. Security analysts say that the qualities which make these small businesses attractive to their owners — low overhead, short-term leases, and low site maintenance — may also serve as an ideal cover for employing members of terrorist groups.

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  • Distributed future: Local electricity could meet half of U.K. power needs by 2050

    Research conducted by nine leading U.K. universities has found that up to 50 percent of electricity demand in the United Kingdom could be met by distributed and low carbon sources by 2050. The research assesses the technological feasibility of a move from the current traditional business models of the Big Six energy providers to a model where greater ownership is met by the civic energy sector. It also goes further by questioning what types of governance, ownership and control a distributed future would need.

  • Government’s authority to protect consumer privacy questioned

    A case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuitin Philadelphia could determine what authority the federal government has in protecting consumer privacy on the Internet. Hotel giant Wyndham Worldwide Corp. argued in court that the Federal Trade Commission(FTC) unlawfully tried to enforce cybersecurity standards when the agency brought a case against Wyndham after hackers allegedly stole data from hundreds of thousands of customer accounts in a series of attacks between April 2008 and January 2010.

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  • DHS termination of bio-detection contract questioned

    In February 2014, six months before Silicon Valley startup NVS delivered the first prototypes of its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pathogen detector to DHS, the department sent NVS’s chief executive Hans Fuernkranz a notice terminating the project. According to a 26 November 2014 draft audit report by DHS’s inspector general’s office, the decision was improperly made by a single agency official without supporting evidence and “against S&T [DHS Science & Technology Directorate] subject matter expert advice.”The official who made the decision to cancel the project had expressed concerns about the cost associated with the NVS contract, and said the contract was terminated because existing technologies could better meet the agency’s needs for confronting bio-threats. The auditors say, however, that they “did not identify evidence to substantiate any of the concerns.”

  • Funding extended for simulated nuclear reactor project

    Hard on the heels of a five-year funding renewal, modeling, and simulation (M&S) technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) will now be deployed to industry and academia under a new inter-institutional agreement for intellectual property. CASL is a U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Innovation Hub established in 2010 to develop advanced M&S capabilities that serve as a virtual version of existing, operating nuclear reactors. As announced by DOE in January, the hub would receive up to $121.5 million over five years, subject to congressional appropriations.

  • U.S. imposes sanctions on three Nigerian Hezbollah operatives

    Nigeria is home to a small Shiite Lebanese population, many members of which emigrated for work in the mid-1900s.Roughly five million Shiites living in Nigeria support the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), an organization initially funded by Iran in the early 1980s to establish an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria.Last Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three Nigerians of Lebanese descent, accusing them of being part of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department (FRD) in the Nigerian capital Abuja.Hezbollah is operating in at least forty-five countries, eleven of which are in Africa.

  • Recycling valuable rare earth metals from old electronics

    Rare earth metals are valuable ingredients in a variety of modern technologies and are found in cell phones, hard disk drives in computers, and other consumer electronics, which are frequently discarded for newer and more up-to-date versions. U.S. consumers disposed of 3.4 million tons of electronics waste in 2012. Continuously increasing global demand for new consumer electronics in turn drives demand for rare-earth metals, which are difficult and costly to mine. Scientists have developed a two-step recovery process that makes recycling rare earth metals easier and more cost-effective.

  • Florida lawmakers want homeowners to have more flood insurance options

    Lawmakers in Florida are planning for a future in which coastal communities can no longer depend on the federal government for affordable flood insurance coverage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood program is facing insolvency after recent disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, so Congress has moved to increaseflood insurance rates across the nation.Legislation proposed by Florida state senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) will give homeowners more coverage options in the local private insurance market. If passed, Brandes’s bill could lower premiums by excluding coverage of a detached garage or covering only the value of a home’s mortgage rather than its full replacement cost.

  • DHS to lead anti-cybercrime campaign

    DHS is gearing up to be the leader in the White House’s campaign to stop cybercrime. President Barack Obama has called cyberspace the “wild west” and that citizens as well as the private sector are looking to the government to be the sheriff. Obama has signed an executive order to promote information sharing between the private and public sector, but many tech companies are hesitant to provide the government cyberthreat information.Under DHS’s proposal, both private companies and government agencies will submit details of previous or current cyberattacks into a shared database hosted by DHS’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. Participating entities will then be able to tap into that database to learn about potential attacks targeted at their respective industries.

  • Security at U.S. chemical plants, and monitoring that security, still fall short

    Security experts, citing a critical Senate report, are warning that the effort by industry and the government to secure U.S. chemical facilities against terrorist attacks has so far been lackluster at best. The Senate report, sponsored by former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), found that after eight years and $595 million dollars spent on efforts to further chemical plant security, there had been only thirty-nine compliance inspections of the 4,011 national facilities at risk. In any event, the current chemical facility security policies apply only to a fraction of the facilities which produce, store, or transport toxic materials around the country. The experts hope that H. R. 4007, which reformed and renewed the 2007 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), and which became Public Law No: 113-254 on 18 December 2014, will improve and accelerate the security work needed at U.S. chemical facilities.

  • Spouses of H-1B visa holders may apply for their own work permits

    As the White House works to lift an injunction placed by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen to prevent the issuing of temporary work permits and deferred deportation to some undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents, the Obama administration said on Tuesday that it will move forward with another immigration reform measure it announced last November. Beginning 26 May, spouses of foreign tech workers who hold H-1B visas will be able to apply for work permits of their own.Silicon Valley leaders applauded the measure.

  • Cost of derailments of oil-carrying trains over the next two decades: $4.5 billion

    A 2014 CSX derailment led to roughly 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilling in and around the James River, West Virginia. Another CSX train derailed last week in the West Virginia town of Mount Carbon. The explosion that followed forced about 1,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The United States will likely experience more oil train derailments as long as Bakken crude oil is transported via rail from the Northern Plains’ Bakken region to U.S. refineries. Oil train accidents often lead to pipeline advocates pushing for more pipelines, but data from PHMSA shows that while oil trains have more frequent accidents, pipelines accidents cause much larger spills.