Public Safety

  • New blood test quickly determines severity of radiation injur

    A novel blood test could greatly improve triage of victims of radiation accidents by rapidly predicting who will survive, who will die, and who should receive immediate medical countermeasures. In pre-clinical trials, the test was able to reveal within twenty-four hours whether survivable doses of radiation or doses that caused severe injury to the bone marrow and other organs would eventually prove fatal. Use of such a test, the researchers said, could “facilitate timely medical intervention and improve overall survival of exposed individuals.”

  • The FBI violated its own rules in surveillance of anti-Keystone XL pipeline activists

    More than eighty pages of internal FBI documents dated from November 2012 to June 2014, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that the FBI breached its own investigation rules when it spied on protesters opposing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Agents in the FBI’s Houston field office failed to get approval before they cultivated informants and opened files on pipeline protesters — a violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming excessively involved in sensitive political issues.

  • 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.

  • U.S. funding has supported Mexican government bodies accused of murders, crimes, abuses

    Over the past year, Mexican authorities have been implicated in cases involving the deaths of hundreds of civilians whose bodies were later found in mass graves. Most of these authorities work for local law enforcement and federal security agencies, which might have received funding from U.S. government programs created to combat Mexico’s illegal drug trade. In 2013, 98.3 percent of crimes in Mexico went unpunished, according to Mexican government statistics. Of the hundreds of mass graves discovered in Mexico in recent years, federal prosecutors have reported opening just fifteen investigations between 2011 and April 2015.

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  • Tests with Sandia’s Davis gun aid B61-12 life extension effort

    Three years of design, planning and preparation came down to a split second, a loud boom and an enormous splash in a successful impact test of hardware in the nose assembly of an unarmed, mock B61-12 nuclear bomb. The Sandia National Laboratories test also captured data that will allow analysts to validate computer models of the bomb, part of Sandia’s decade-long effort in the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP). An LEP is a way to extend the life of an aging weapon without adding new military capability. The B61-12 LEP is an $8.1 billion National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) program coordinated across the nation’s nuclear security enterprise.

  • DHS deportations undermine efforts to get immigrants to provide leads on radical suspects

    DHS counterterrorism teams rely on cooperation from immigrant communities to obtain leads on radical individuals and pending terrorism plots, but many of these communities are becoming more wary of federal law enforcement as the number of deportations increase. “It’s ironic that you’ve got them coming in and trying to get information from our communities even as they’re detaining and deporting us at an alarming rate,” says one immigration activist. “That trust is just not going to be there. You can’t have it both ways.”

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  • Does Iran deal advance or undermine global nonproliferation efforts? Experts disagree

    The White House already points to the potential Iran deal as one of the highlights of Obama’s legacy, as it fulfills both the Obama doctrine of advancing U.S. interests through engagement with America’s adversaries and the vision of a world gradually retreating from furthering nuclear weapons ambitions. Nuclear nonproliferation experts, however, question whether an Iranian nuclear deal, as laid out in the framework agreement reached last month, advances or sets back the nonproliferation agenda and Obama’s vision of ridding the world of nuclear threat.

  • Final prototype of tool for spotting buried victims now commercially available

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, last week announced the transition of the final prototype of the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) technology to the commercial market. The technology proved successful during its first real-world operational use when it was deployed to Nepal following the 25 April earthquake to support international search and rescue efforts in the country.

  • U.S. Navy successfully demonstrates autonomous, swarming UAVs

    A new era in autonomy and unmanned systems for naval operations is on the horizon, as U.S. Navy officials last month announced recent technology demonstrations of swarming unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — part of the Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program. LOCUST can launch swarming UAVs to autonomously overwhelm an adversary.

  • Nuclear forensics science helps thwart terrorist use of nuclear materials

    A nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists is the stuff of nightmares, especially for U.S. agencies charged with preventing a devastating attack. When security or law enforcement agents confiscate nuclear or radiological weapons or their ingredients being smuggled domestically or internationally, they must quickly trace them back to their source. This is where the science of nuclear forensics comes in. With funding from DHS, Oregon State University has launched a new graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics in OSU’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics.

  • Improved structure firefighting glove commercially available

    When responding to structural fires, firefighters wear protective gloves known as “structure gloves” to shield their hands from burns and other injuries. Because structure gloves can be bulky and limit dexterity, firefighters often need to remove the gloves to complete routine tasks, such as handling operating tools or using communications equipment. Without gloves, firefighters’ hands are at a higher risk of injury. DHS S&T partnered with two companies to construct a new, improved structure glove that will provide the full range of protection firefighters need. This next-generation glove provides firefighters with enhanced dexterity, water repellency and fire resistance. The glove is now commercially available.

  • Researchers make “bio-inspired” flame retardants in a jiffy

    Furniture fires are the leading cause of casualties in house fires. In 2013, they accounted for about 30 percent of more than 2,700 deaths in residential fires. After devising several new and promising “green” flame retardants for furniture padding, NIST researchers took a trip to the grocery store and cooked up their best fire-resistant coatings yet.

  • NSA accepts proposed Congressional curbs on bulk data collection

    The NSA’s domestic bulk phone metadata collection program, authorized under Section 215 of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, is set to expire on 1 June. Congress is now gearing up to pass new legislation, called the USA Freedom Act, to curb the NSA’s ability to store domestic phone metadata, instead keeping the information with telecommunications companies. NSA officials have welcomed the proposed restrictions, saying many within the agency doubted the effectiveness of its bulk metadata collection program.

  • Training the future canine force

    Canines have proven to be expert bomb detectors for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. With combat operations winding down, however, the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Expeditionary Canine Sciences program says it is taking a fresh look at how dogs are trained to identify different explosive devices — and their roles in future conflicts. In addition to challenging dogs’ noses, ONR-sponsored research is studying their minds. Canines’ brains are evaluated using functional MRI machines (fMRIs) to determine how well they respond to various forms of motivation — snack treats, verbal praise, or physical affection such as petting.

  • Kerry tells Israelis: U.S. “guarantees” it can prevent Iran from getting the bomb

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to assuage concerns in Israel over the nuclear deal with Iran, saying in a Sunday interview on Israel’s Channel 10 TV that “There is a lot of hysteria about this deal.” He added: “I say to every Israeli that today we have the ability to stop them if they decided to move quickly to a bomb, and I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb.”