• Assad used chemical weapons more than two dozen times: UN

    The regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria has used chemical weapons on more than two dozen occasions since the outbreak of the civil war six years ago, including in April’s deadly attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a UN war crimes investigation revealed on Wednesday. In their 14th report since 2011, which includes the most conclusive findings to date from investigations into chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian civil war, the UN investigators said they had documented a total of 33 attacks.

  • Radiation analysis software from Sandia Lab helps emergency responders

    When law enforcement officers and first responders arrive at an emergency involving radiation, they need a way to swiftly assess the situation to keep the public and environment safe. Having analysis tools that can quickly and reliably make sense of radiation data is of the essence. Sandia National Laboratories developed a tool called InterSpec, available for both mobile and traditional computing devices, can rapidly and accurately analyze gamma radiation data collected at the scene.

  • Detecting carriers of dirty bombs

    The threat of terrorism in Europe has been on the rise in recent years, with experts and politicians particularly worried that terrorists might make use of dirty bombs. Researchers have developed a new system that will be able to detect possible carriers of radioactive substances, even in large crowds of people. This solution is one of the defensive measures being developed as part of the REHSTRAIN project, which is focused on security for TGV and ICE high-speed trains in France and Germany.

  • Why we should start worrying about nuclear fallout

    Since North Korea’s recent missile tests, and Sunday’s underground nuclear test, the possibility of nuclear warfare looms larger than it has in more than five decades. Nearly thirty years after the cold war ended, are we prepared to face such a challenge? How would large-scale nuclear attacks affect the world today? “During the cold war, the United States, the Soviet Union, and several European countries built networks of fallout shelters — but even at their peak, these would not have effectively protected the majority of citizens,” says one expert. Nor is radioactive fallout the only problem, because “the damage from mass fires triggered by nuclear bombs has been radically and persistently underestimated.”

  • Harnessing AI to catch disease fast

    Up to 27,000 microbiology laboratories around the world could benefit from a ground-breaking automation technology. The Automated Plate Assessment System (APAS) can automatically screen microbiology culture plates for the presence of various disease-causing pathogens, revolutionizing the workflow in modern microbiology labs. The smart software uses artificial intelligence to analyze microbial growth in much the same way as a microbiologist would, but with faster and more consistent results.

  • New app helps improve radiation detection at ports

    Evaluating radiation alarms represents a huge challenge for inspectors at seaports scanning containers for radioactive materials. Each alarm requires inspectors to perform secondary inspections on dozens of containers a day. A new smart phone application launched by the IAEA will help distinguish between alarms due to harmless amounts of naturally occurring radiation and alarms that might be a cause for concern from a security standpoint and warrant further investigation.

  • Distinguishing virulent from harmless bacteria to help biological surveillance

    Biological “detectives” are tracking down biothreats such as the bacteria that causes tularemia (“rabbit fever”), but they constantly face the challenge of avoiding false positives. Sounding the alarm over a bioattack, only to find it’s a harmless relative in the same genus, reduces credibility and public trust. Researchers are narrowing down the confusion over Francisella bacteria, a few species of which include highly virulent human and animal pathogens, fish pathogens, opportunistic human pathogens, tick endosymbionts, and free-living isolates inhabiting brackish water.

  • UN: Two shipments of chemical weapons from North Korea to Syria were intercepted

    North Korea has been caught delivering shipments to a Syrian government agency in charge of the country’s chemical weapons program, according to a confidential UN report on North Korea’s sanctions violations.The United States and Russia brokered a deal in 2013 requiring Syria to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles.

  • Melbourne Christmas Day terror suspects had “mother of Satan” chemicals: Expert

    A court in Australia was told that volatile chemical explosives, nicknamed “mother of Satan,” were found in the possession of four men accused of plotting a Christmas Day terrorist attack in Melbourne. The Australian reports that federal police chemicals expert Dr. Vincent Otieno-Alego told Melbourne magistrates court on Tuesday that he analyzed substances that could produce up to 2g of triacetone triperoxide (TATP).

  • Detecting concealed weapon, threat is not easy, and experience is no help to police officers

    Detecting potential threats is part of the job for police officers, military personnel and security guards. Terrorist attacks and bombings at concerts, sporting events and airports underscore the need for accurate and reliable threat detection. However, the likelihood of a police officer identifying someone concealing a gun or bomb is only slightly better than chance, according to new research. Officers with more experience were even less accurate.

  • Identifying toxic threats, preparing for surprise

    Predicting chemical attacks is no small task, especially when there are so many toxic substances. There is no crystal ball to aid us in sorting through them all to identify and characterize the potential threats. Instead, intelligence and defense communities use a broad network of tools to forecast hazards to safeguard our warfighters and nation. A new project from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) seeks to improve the U.S. defensive capability by creating a crystal ball to more rapidly determine the toxicity of such chemical hazards and increase our ability to prepare for surprise.

  • Experimental box to track nuclear activity by rogue nations

    Researchers are carrying out a research project at Dominion Power’s North Anna Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia that could lead to a new turning point in how the United Nations tracks rogue nations that seek nuclear power. The years-long project centers on a high-tech box full of luminescent plastic cubes stacked atop one another that can be placed just outside a nuclear reactor operated by, say, Iran. The box would detect subatomic particles known as neutrinos produced by the reactor, which can be used to track the amount of plutonium produced in the reactor core.

  • Breakthrough in countering deadly VX

    First developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s, VX is one of the most toxic chemical weapon threats facing soldiers on the battlefield – and civilians as well, as the use by VX by Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad shows. DoD currently uses the Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion (RSDL) for broad-spectrum agent elimination on unbroken skin, but a capability gap exists for treating chemical agent exposure to large affected areas or open wounds.

  • New optical device detects drugs, bomb-making chemicals

    Scientists searching for traces of drugs, bomb-making components, and other chemicals often shine light on the materials they’re analyzing. This approach is known as spectroscopy, and it involves studying how light interacts with trace amounts of matter. One of the more effective types of spectroscopy is infrared absorption spectroscopy, which scientists use to sleuth out performance-enhancing drugs in blood samples and tiny particles of explosives in the air.

  • A spate of acid attacks in London is part of an international problem

    A series of five acid attacks in one night in London has created a moment for the British government to take a more public stance on this growing problem. Available statistics suggest a sharp rise in attacks with corrosive substances in the United Kingdom. Data produced by the Metropolitan Police reveal that there were 455 crimes involving corrosive substances in London alone in 2016. Dozens of incidents have been reported so far this year. It is also clear that acid violence is a global problem. Acid Survivors Trust International reports a significant number of attacks in India, Colombia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Uganda, and Cambodia. There is thus a need to think about how to identify and support good practice internationally – in terms of prevention and supporting victims. This can help the efficient sharing of expertise and resources globally.