Public Safety

  • NYC mayor de Blasio facing criticism for curbing counterterrorism programs

    New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is facing backlash over his decision to curb several counterterrorism programs introduced by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Among other things, de Blasio has restricted the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program; approved issuing municipal IDs of standards lower than those mandated by the federal government’s RealID program; is refusing to reinstate a special surveillance program which targeted Muslim communities in New York; and has also replaced the highly regarded deputy police commissioner for intelligence.

  • Silicon Valley tech startups developing earthquake early warning mobile apps

    Silicon Valley tech startups are developing mobile applications to alert residents about earthquakes, but most lack a direct source to the seismic sensors deployed by the state’s ShakeAlertsystem which sends alerts seconds before the ground begins to shake.Googleis currently the only tech company with an agreement to access ShakeAlert’s data feed, and analysts anticipate that Google will integrate ShakeAlert’s system with its Nestthermostat, a Web-connected thermostat that sends alerts to users’ phone and e-mail with details on home temperature and energy use.

  • Report on CBP agent border shooting: “Police don’t get to shoot someone in the back because they beat you up”

    A new, detailed report provides an in-depth look into a border shooting involving a CBP agent. Juan Mendez Jr., 18, an American citizen, was shot twice by Agent Taylor Poitevent and died at the scene. Following an investigation, Poitevent was not charged with any violations in the shooting death of Mendez. To date there are more than forty border fatalities involving CBP agents since 2005 which have remained virtually closed to public scrutiny. Thomas Herrera, former Maverick County, Texas sheriff, remains doubtful of Poitevent’s innocence. “Resisting arrest does not give an officer the right to kill someone,” Herrera said.

  • The State of New York launches disaster preparedness initiatives

    The state of New York is implementing a proactive strategy to deal with the threat of terrorism and natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy. Local municipalities have been granted state support for emergency preparedness projects, and the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services(DHSES), led by commissioner Jerome Hauer, has expanded its regional footprint from five planning/response regions to ten. “Mother Nature has become much more aggressive, so we too must adopt a similar posture to ensure we are ready to respond effectively when the next disaster strikes, Hauer says.

  • Strengthening the armor for nuclear-waste eating microbes

    A microbe developed to clean up nuclear waste and patented by a Michigan State University researcher has just been improved. Researchers had identified that Geobacter bacteria’s tiny conductive hair-like appendages, or pili, did the yeoman’s share of remediation. By increasing the strength of the pili nanowires, she improved their ability to clean up uranium and other toxic wastes.

  • UN report indicates Syrian army used chlorine in April attacks on rebel-held villages

    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used as a weapon to attack three Syrian villages in April. The agency investigators did not specify who had launched the chlorine attacks, but the full report, which so far has been shared only with governments, leaves little doubt that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks.

  • Counter-ISIS campaign must include a robust effort to stop Westerners from joining it: Experts

    President Barack Obama last night outlined a 4-step strategy to defeat the Islamic State (IS). Administration officials indicated that the campaign against IS might take up to three years. Counterterrorism experts say that while the United States and its allies engage IS militarily, they must address the growing threat of young radicalized Western Muslims, many of whom have traveled to join the terrorist organization in Syria or Iraq.

  • Inexpensive, home-made quake early-warning system can be a life saver

    UC Berkeley astrophysics professor Josh Bloom has developed an earthquake early-warning (EEW) device meant for the home or office. Resembling a home fire alarm or carbon monoxide sensor, the device was built using a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, an SD card, wired power speaker, and mini Wi-Fi adapter — costing roughly $110 in parts.

  • Start-ups offer apps which help people cope with disasters

    Open data policies which allow government agencies to share public information with citizens and the private sector have made California welcoming to startups dedicated to helping communities recover following a disaster.For example: Appallicious offers an app which allows subscribed cities and towns to select from hundreds of data sets, then share with the public, information on evacuation routes, current hazards, and location of critical resources.BlueLine Grid allows public employees from different agencies to communicate with each other during a crisis.SeeClickFix is connecting residents to their local government.

  • Los Alamos conducts hydrodynamic experiment in Nevada

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has successfully fired the latest in a series of hydrodynamic experiments at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). Hydrodynamic experiments involve non-nuclear surrogate materials that mimic many of the properties of nuclear materials. The12 August 2014 integrated experiment, nicknamed “Leda,” provided important surrogate hydrodynamic materials data which support the laboratory’s role as a steward of the U. S. nuclear deterrent.

  • U.S. air marshal in quarantine after suspected Ebola syringe attack at Lagos airport

    An American federal air marshal was placed in quarantine in Houston, Texas yesterday after being attacked Sunday night at the Lagos, Nigeria airport. The assailant wielded a syringe which contained an unknown substance, and was able to inject an unknown substance into the back of one of the air marshal’s arms. The marshal was able to board the United Airlines flight to Houston, where he was met by FBI agents and health workers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

  • Japan boasts an earthquake early-warning system, but critics question its value

    Since 1979, scientists with the Japanese earthquake prediction program have been monitoring a stretch of coastline southwest of Tokyo, watching for ground motion which might signal a pending rupture on the nearby fault zone. If motion is detected, Japanese law requires the prime minister to issue an emergency warning to close schools, secure hospitals, and shut down critical public transportation systems. Critics argue Japan will be unable to predict earthquakes in the same manner meteorologists track approaching typhoons or rain storms, saying that the program offers false hope.

  • ShakeAlert’s performance during August Napa tremor should lead to regional deployment: Supporters

    See video

    Before the magnitude-6 earthquake struck Napa County late August, the Bay Area Rapid Transit received an alert ordering trains to stop, and some 911 operators had a few seconds of warning to brace for an influx of calls from concerned residents. The success of ShakeAlert, California’s earthquake early-warning system currently in the testing phase, has encouraged state lawmakers to push for funding — and deploying — the regional early warning system.

  • Experts defend operational earthquake forecasting

    After the devastating 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in Italy, critics suggested that operational earthquake forecasting (OEF) is ineffective, distracting, and dangerous. In an editorial published in the Seismological Research Letters, experts defend OEF, arguing the importance of public communication as part of a suite of activities intended to improve public safety and mitigate damage from earthquakes.

  • Improving earthquake early warning systems, data collection

    Researchers are working on what will be the U.S. first earthquake early warning system available to the public. Once fully implemented, the system will use networks of seismic instrumentation to detect when an earthquake is pending and send alerts via text message or other mass notification systems to people. The researchers are also workingon the Quake-Catcher Network to improve monitoring of earthquake activity around the world. Officials and city planners can use the data provided by Quake-Catcher to help decide where to build critical infrastructure such as power plants, hospitals, and water lines.