• Military spendingWorld military spending: Increases in the U.S., Europe, decreases in oil-exporting countries

    Total world military expenditure rose to $1686 billion in 2016, an increase of 0.4 percent in real terms from 2015, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Military spending in North America saw its first annual increase since 2010, while spending in Western Europe grew for the second consecutive year.

  • GunsOne in five U.S. gun owners obtained firearm without background check

    One in five U.S. gun owners who obtained a firearm in the past two years did so without a background check, according to a new national survey. The study also found the share of gun owners who acquired firearms via private sale without background checks was significantly larger (57 percent) in states without laws regulating such purchases than in states with legislative regulations (26 percent). It has been earlier estimated that 40 percent of gun transfers were conducted without background checks.

  • North KoreaThe worry over North Korea

    The risk of war on the Korean peninsula is low, says a nuclear arms expert. “Both sides are rattling sabers, but neither side is going to start a war,” says Belfer Center’s Gary Samore. “We recognize that a military attack on North Korea would probably not be effective in terms of destroying North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program and would run the risk of a North Korean retaliation against South Korea and Japan, which could cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And the North Koreans know that any attack on U.S. allies in the region would provoke an American response that would destroy them.”

  • CrimeEyewitness confidence may predict accuracy of identifications

    Many individuals have been falsely accused of a crime based, at least in part, on confident eyewitness identifications, a fact that has bred distrust of eyewitness confidence in the U.S. legal system. But a new report challenges the perception that eyewitness memory is inherently fallible, finding that eyewitness confidence can reliably indicate the accuracy of an identification made under certain, “pristine” conditions.

  • Chemical weaponsFrance: We have proof Assad ordered chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun

    Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s foreign minister, said Wednesday that France’s intelligence services have evidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack on a Sunni village earlier this month. The Syrian military’s attack on Khan Sheikhun killed eighty-six. British and Turkish scientists, examining injured victims and performing autopsies on those killed, found evidence of both sarin - a nerve gas - and chlorine.

  • Chemical weaponsSyrian defector: Assad still has hundreds of tons of chemical weapons stockpiled

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad circumvented a 2013 deal to dismantle his chemical weapons stockpile by failing to declare the full extent of his arsenal, Syria’s former chemical weapons research chief. Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat, who served as the head of chemical warfare in a top Syrian military unit before defecting in 2013, said that Assad had not declared large amounts of sarin and its precursor chemicals.

  • African securityGerman peace-keeping force in Mali hobbled by extreme heat

    Germany has agreed to support to UN peace keeping mission in Mali, a country facing Islamist insurgency in the vast desert in the country’s north. But there is a problem: The Bundeswehr’s service vehicles were found to be unable to take Mali’s searing heat. Half to ground vehicles Germany shipped to Mali are no longer in operating condition, and the deployment of the sophisticated Tiger helicopter has been delayed because it cannot operate in temperatures which exceed 109 F.

  • Disasters & social mediaBig data study of disaster-related social media language helps first responders

    Researchers explore how the properties of language style used in social media — particularly on Twitter — can help first responders quickly identify areas of need during a disaster. The researchers analyzed several hundred thousand tweets from social media users located in and around the areas where Hurricane Sandy, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and the Boston Marathon bombing occurred.

  • Seismic early warningMexico implements lessons from 1985 devastating earthquake

    Five years after the devastating 1985 quake, which killed more than 10,000 people, Mexico equipped itself with one of the world’s most effective early warning systems for earthquakes. SASMEX: The Seismic Alert System of Mexico comprises more than 8200 seismic sensors located in the most active earthquake zone that runs between Jalisco, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Mexico City.

  • TerrorismBee colonies-inspired tool to help dismantle terrorist cells, criminal social networks

    Researchers have designed an algorithm, inspired by the intelligent and social behavior of bee colonies, which allows law enforcement to attack and dismantle any type of social network that poses a threat, whether physical or virtual, such as social networks linked to organized crime and jihadist terrorism. The possible applications of this new bio-inspired algorithm, which helps to make optimal decisions in order to dismantle any type of social network, are many and varied: from dismantling a criminal network to facilitating the design of vaccination strategies capable of containing the spread of a pandemic.

  • WildfiresNew era of western wildfire requires new ways of protecting people, ecosystems

    Current wildfire policy cannot adequately protect people, homes, and ecosystems from the longer, hotter fire seasons climate change is causing. Efforts to extinguish every blaze and reduce the buildup of dead wood and forest undergrowth are becoming increasingly inadequate on their own. Instead, experts urge policymakers and communities to embrace policy reform that will promote adaptation to increasing wildfire and warming.

  • Nuclear weaponsDrop of mock nuclear weapon by Sandia Lab is first of new flight tests

    Sandia’s B61-12 weapon refurbishment program consolidates and replaces four B61 variants in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The first production unit in the weapon’s life extension program is scheduled to be completed in 2020. From a distance, the 14 March drop of a mock nuclear weapon — containing only non-nuclear components — was a mere puff of dust rising from a dry lake bed at Nevada’s Tonopah Test Range. However, it marked the start of a new series of test flights vital to the nation’s B61-12 program.

  • SyriaWH report: The Assad regime's use of chemical weapons on 4 April 2017

    The White House on Tuesday released a 4-page report, prepared by the National Security Council, which contains declassified U.S. intelligence on the 4 April chemical weapons attack in Syria. The document calls Russia’s claim that the source of the gas was a rebels’ storage facility a “false narrative,” accusing Russia of “shielding” a client state which has used weapons of mass destruction.

  • SyriaBy insisting Assad must go, the West has prolonged the Syrian conflict

    By Jack Holland

    The most enthusiastic Western advocates of removing Assad form a liberal tendency and have been arguing for some form of intervention in Syria ever since the war began in earnest. They are opposed by more realist voices, who exhort them to remember the lessons of Iraq before getting militarily involved. Those on this side point to Syria’s fractured and often radical opposition, the regime’s formidable and battle-hardened forces, and the risks of starting a proxy conflict between the world’s great powers. In combination, these two tendencies have landed United States and United Kingdom foreign policy in an awkward gap between ends and means: Assad must go, but the military means required to remove him are off limits. It feels good to demand that a brutal dictator should no longer be allowed to rule, but insisting on it while failing to back it up with action has helped to prolong unimaginable suffering. Assad is clearly despicable, but the only atrocities worse than those his government has already committed are those yet to come. There are two ways to avert them: either Assad is deposed, probably via U.S.-led military intervention, or some political accord is struck to allow him to stay in exchange for a permanent ceasefire.

  • Chemical weaponsMedical evidence confirms sarin gas was used in Syria chemical attack

    Turkey’s health minister said that traces of sarin gas have been detected in blood and urine samples from victims injured in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Syria on 4 April, offering “concrete evidence” of its use in the attack. Isopropyl methylphosphonic acid, a chemical which sarin degrades into, was found in the blood and urine samples taken from the patients who arrived in Turkey. Many of the victims of last week’s attack were taken to Turkey for treatment because the Assad regime and Russia, as part of their war strategy, have destroyed many of the medical facilities in the Sunni areas of Syria.