Public Safety

  • Former Israeli PM Ehud Barak invests $1 million in emergency reporting app developer

    Israeli start-up Reporty Homeland Security has raised $1 million from former prime minister and minister of defense Ehud Barak. The company’s technology aims to streamline communication between citizen and government agencies at the same time that it protects the user’s privacy. The company’s application establishes a two-way video and audio connection to the emergency help center, transmitting information which gives the precise location of the person making the report and allowing for an evaluation of the incident report’s credibility.

  • Smartphones could be used for earthquake early warning

    Smartphones and other personal electronic devices could, in regions where they are in widespread use, function as early warning systems for large earthquakes according to newly reported research. This technology could serve regions of the world that cannot afford higher quality, but more expensive, conventional earthquake early warning systems, or could contribute to those systems. The researchers found that the sensors in smartphones and similar devices could be used to issue earthquake warnings for earthquakes of approximately magnitude 7 or larger, but not for smaller, yet potentially damaging earthquakes.

  • Underground impact of a missile or meteor hit

    When a missile or meteor strikes the earth, the havoc above ground is obvious, but the details of what happens below ground are harder to see. Physicists have developed techniques that enable them to simulate high-speed impacts in artificial soil and sand in the lab, and then watch what happens underground close-up, in super slow motion. The research, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the research may ultimately lead to better control of earth-penetrating missiles designed to destroy deeply buried targets such as enemy bunkers or stockpiles of underground weapons.

  • California exploring ways to fund ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system

    A 2008 ShakeOutreport predicts that a 7.8 magnetic quake could cause up to $200 billion in damages from buildings and infrastructure collapse, leaving households and most businesses without electricity and water for months. About 50,000 people would be injured, and more than 2,000 could die.The proposed ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system,is similar to systems in Mexico and Japan, which residents have relied on to receive notice about an incoming quake seconds before it arrives.California is exploring many options to fund the ShakeAlert system, with some officials favoring a federal-state partnership.

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  • As law enforcement increases use of license plate readers, privacy advocates fret

    Law enforcement agencies across the country have adopted license plate readers (LPRs) to monitor vehicles driving on roads and to locate wanted suspects or suspended drivers.After canceling plans last year to operate its own LPR database, DHS announced last week, through a bid request, that the agency’s ICE is seeking a private sector firm to provide access to already functioning LPR databases for a subscription fee.Privacy advocates argue that the gains made with LPR systems, do not justify the mass monitoring of Americans who drive.

  • Chlorine attacks continue in Syria with no prospect of Assad being brought to account

    For more than a year, there have been numerous reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. This includes reported incidents which occurred in late March, as thousands of Syrians fled the city of Idlib in the face of a government-rebel stand-off. According to witnesses, chemical weapons were used. UN resolutions condemning the use of chemical weapons, however, do not imply immediate action to stop such use. The use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria thus goes on — and there is so far little evidence that the world’s major powers have the wherewithal to bring those responsible to justice. Continued geopolitical wrangling over Syria leaves those documenting the continuation of war crimes there almost completely powerless to stop what is happening. For now, the best we can hope for is that relevant organizations are allowed to continue to gather evidence for future trials —– and that pressure is put on all states to prosecute suspected perpetrators. This is to ensure that those who are committing such atrocities know that they will eventually be held to account.

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  • Soldiers, astronauts to be protected by tough, flexible new material

    A team of researchers has developed a revolutionary material that has superior anti-penetration properties while remaining flexible. Inspired by the way nature designed fish scales, the material could be used to make bulletproof clothing for the military and space suits that are impervious to micro-meteorites and radiation when astronauts embark on spacewalks. The material emulates the skins of many species of fish — skins which are flexible, but which also protect the fish by hard scales.

  • Mexican drug war may have increased homicide rates

    The Mexican government has been fighting an internal war against drug traffickers. A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch estimates 60,000 people were killed between 2006 and 2012 as a result of the military interventions and drug cartels fighting each other for control of territory. A new statistical analysis suggests that, in the short term, the Mexican government’s war against drugs increased the average murder rate in regions subjected to military-style interventions.

  • DHS seeking license plate readers (LPRs) technology -- again

    A year after privacy concerns led DHS to recall its solicitation for bids by private companies to help the department create a national license-plate database which would allow unlimited access to information obtained from commercial and law enforcement license plate readers (LPRs), the agency has renewed its solicitation on the basis that privacy concerns raised by civil liberties groups and lawmakers could be addressed and managed.

  • China increasing significantly funding for cyber warfare capabilities

    U.S. intelligence officials have warned that China is increasing significantly its investment in cyber warfare programs in an attempt to compete with the U.S. military. The new spending initiative is part of a long-term, large-scale resource reallocation strategy aiming to make China one of the most capable cyber warfare nations. The increases are an effort by the Chinese to improve their cyber capabilities following the realization that they are lagging behind U.S. programs in significant ways.

  • The National Explosives Task Force keeps a watchful eye on IEDs

    The National Explosives Task Force (NETF) is a multi-agency assemblage of bomb technicians, analysts, and professional staff formed in 2011 quickly to analyze and disseminate intelligence related to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosive materials in the United States. It includes personnel from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The NETF’s main functions include gathering and analyzing intelligence on explosives, integrating the intel into investigations (to disrupt plots, for example), and pushing information out to partners — which include more than 3,100 public safety bomb technicians on more than 400 bomb squads around the country.

  • P5+1, Iran agree on parameters of an agreement over Iran's nuclear program

    A couple of hours ago, the P5+1 and Iran announced the parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and 30 June, and State Department says that they “reflect the significant progress” which has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Many important implementation details are still to be negotiated, and State stressed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” The number of centrifuges in the hands of Iran will be reduced from the 19,000 they currently have to 6,104 – all of which older, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges – and 5,060 of them will be used to enrich uranium. For the next fifteen years, Iran will not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent.

  • Two Queens, N.Y. women arrested for plotting propane tank bomb attacks in New York

    Roommates Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, were arrested Thursday morning and charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction in the United States, according to federal prosecutors. FBI officials say both women, who live in Queens, New York, were radicalized by Islamic State (ISIS) propaganda. A complaint unsealed on Thursday says the women had been communicating with people affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. “The investigation has revealed that Velentzas espouses violent jihadist beliefs and has repeatedly expressed an interest in terrorist attacks committed within the United States,” the complaint stated.

  • Bioweapons do not offer the same deterrence value nukes offer: Experts

    Biological and nuclear weapons are both considered weapons of mass destruction, but only nuclear weapons currently serve as a deterrence. Some security experts have proposed the idea of nations adopting non-contagious biological weapons as a new form of deterrence. Critics note that the consequences of starting a global biological arms race are troubling enough, but the concept of replacing nuclear weapons with biological weapons as a form of deterrence is flawed for three main reasons: uncertainty of effects, availability of defenses, and the need for secrecy and surprise.

  • L.A.’s emergency communication system facing many hurdles

    After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government encouraged authorities in large cities to build emergency communications systems that would allow separate agencies to coordinate together quickly and efficiently. The government offered grants to help pay some of the costs of the systems, pending completion of the work by a set deadline. In Los Angeles County, a common communications system is still not a reality years after officials signed up for the federal program. Besides technological hurdles, contracting issues, and constantly changing requirements from the federal government, Los Angeles County is having to deal with firefighters and residents who object the plan citing health and property value concerns with the placement of giant cell towers in their neighborhoods.