• Rectifying a wrong nuclear fuel decision

    In the old days, new members of Congress knew they had much to learn. They would defer to veteran lawmakers before sponsoring legislation. But in the Twitter era, the newly elected are instant experts. That is how Washington on 12 June witnessed the remarkable phenomenon of freshman Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk), successfully spearheading an amendment that may help Islamist radicals get nuclear weapons. The issue is whether the U.S. Navy should explore modifying the reactor fuel in its nuclear-powered vessels — as France already has done — to reduce the risk of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists such as al-Qaida or rogue states such as Iran. Luria says no. Alan J. Kuperman writes in the Pilot Online that more seasoned legislators have started to rectify the situation by passing a spending bill on 19 June that includes the funding for naval fuel research. They will have the chance to fully reverse Luria in July on the House floor by restoring the authorization. Doing so would not only promote U.S. national security but teach an important lesson that enthusiasm is no substitute for experience.

  • Private prisons have a political role in corrections issues in the U.S.

    Private prisons hold more than 120,000 inmates, about 8 percent of all prisoners, for 29 states and the federal government. The two largest private prison companies also operate more than 13,000 beds for immigrant detention. Private prisons play a political role in immigration and incarceration issues in the United States and the industry may face obstacles as well as opportunities in the current political landscape, new research finds.

  • AI helps protect emergency personnel in hazardous environments

    Whether it’s at rescue and firefighting operations or deep-sea inspections, mobile robots finding their way around unknown situations with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) can effectively support people in carrying out activities in hazardous environments.

  • National emergency alerts potentially vulnerable to spoofing

    On 3 October 2018, cell phones across the United States received a text message labeled “Presidential Alert.” It was the first trial run for a new national alert system, developed by several U.S. government agencies as a way to warn as many people across the United States as possible if a disaster was imminent. Now, a new study raises a red flag around these alerts—namely, that such emergency alerts authorized by the President of the United States can, theoretically, be spoofed.

  • Mass surveillance is coming to a city near you

    The tech entrepreneur Ross McNutt wants to spend three years recording outdoor human movements in a major U.S. city, KMOX news radio reports. Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic that if that sounds too dystopian to be real, you’re behind the times. McNutt, who runs Persistent Surveillance Systems, was inspired by his stint in the Air Force tracking Iraqi insurgents. He tested mass-surveillance technology over Compton, California, in 2012. In 2016, the company flew over Baltimore, feeding information to police for months (without telling city leaders or residents) while demonstrating how the technology works to the FBI and Secret Service.

  • Several German pro-immigration politicians receive death threats

    As the investigation of the killing of pro-immigration politician Walter Lübcke intensifies, Cologne’s mayor and several other German politicians who support generous refugee admission policies have had their lives threatened. Two of these politicians, in 2017, have already been attacked by knife-wielding far-right extremists.

  • Shoe scanner may improve airport security

    The types of shoes you wear when flying matter. And not just shoe types. Size, material, soles and heels are also very important. Why? Shoes can become dangerous vehicles for terrorists’ plots. DHS wants to prevent future incidents, and this is why S&T is working on a millimeter wave technology for screening shoes as part of the larger Screening at Speed Program.

  • New technology to measures WMD threat exposures

    Researchers are looking to find molecular signatures in blood that identify previous exposures and time of exposure to materials that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction (including infectious agents, chemicals, and radiation). The epigenome is biology’s record keeper, and Epigenetic technology will provide a new tool in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

  • How close was Nazi Germany to the bomb?

    How close did Nazi Germany get to a working nuclear reactor? Researchers exploring the German quest and failure to build a working nuclear reactor during the Second World War say that Germany was close – but that the effort was hampered by decentralization and lack of scientific communication. “If the Germans had pooled their resources, rather than keeping them divided among separate, rival experiments, they may have been able to build a working nuclear reactor,” says an expert.

  • Satellite observations help in earthquake monitoring, response

    Researchers have found that data gathered from orbiting satellites can provide more accurate information on the impact of large earthquakes, which, in turn, can help provide more effective emergency response.

  • As global temperatures climb, risk of armed conflict likely to increase substantially

    As global temperatures climb, the risk of armed conflict is expected to increase substantially, according to experts across several fields. Synthesizing views across experts, the study estimates climate has influenced between 3 percent and 20 percent of armed conflict risk over the last century and that the influence will likely increase dramatically.

  • How deeply has Germany’s murderous far right penetrated the security forces?

    On June 2, Walter Lübcke was found dead in his garden with a bullet wound in the head. In his home town of Kassel, in the heart of Germany, the affable 65-year-old politician was a well-known member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center right party who had welcomed immigrants when she opened the country’s doors to refugees in 2015—and who had weathered a storm of hatred on social media as a result. Josephine Huetlin writes in the Daily Beast that at first, police insisted there was no political connection to the murder, and several investigators dismissed the possibility the killer came from the far right. But this week they arrested a suspect with neo-Nazi associations and a history of racist crimes. Now, the federal prosecutor’s office has taken over the case, which means it will be treated as an act of extremism and, in effect, of terrorism.

  • Germany investigates “right-wing extremist” murder of a pro-immigration politician

    A German pro-immigration politician has been murdered in what appears to be an execution-style assassination. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has described the attack as “right-wing extremist” in nature, saying it was “directed against us all.”

  • Terrorist sympathizer who placed bombs in South Carolina roadways sentenced

    A man and his daughter were driving down a rural highway in Anderson County, South Carolina, on 30 January 2018, when they noticed something odd—a glowing wicker basket in the middle of the road. On 4 and 15 February, the bomber placed other bomb-like devices in the area. Two more devices were found in the subsequent days. The FBI’s investigative and scientific teams cracked the case, and in February 2019 the culprit was sentenced to thirty years in prison.

  • Drones help in early detection of forest fires

    Researchers have developed a drone-based system for early detection and prevention of forest fires through drone technology. Sensors can detect fire from 15 kilometers away, and autonomously send drones to investigate, even in conditions of limited visibility, and gathers optic and thermal images of the fire, which the drone sends back in real time.