Public Safety

  • Requiring background checks for all gun sales would improve safety: Expert

    Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority stance against efforts to regulate gun availability and ownership, many policies aimed at lessening gun violence have had at best a minimal impact, according to a new study by a University of Virginia criminologist. One policy not used in Virginia and thirty-three other states, however, would clearly make it more difficult for criminals or unqualified users to obtain guns: requiring a background check for anyone buying from an unlicensed private seller, including those at gun shows and flea markets.

  • Detecting horse-meat fraud in the wake of a recent food scandal

    As the United Kingdom forms a new crime unit designed to fight food fraud — in response to an uproar last year over horse meat being passed off as beef — scientists from Germany are reporting a technique for detecting meat adulteration.

  • French jets attack ISIS targets in Iraq

    French military jets earlier this morning (Friday) have carried out the first strikes by a U.S. ally against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq. A statement from the office of President Francois Hollande said the planes had attacked an ISIS depot in north-east Iraq, and that the coming days will see additional French attacks on the Islamist group. The United States has carried out more than 170 air strikes against the Jihadist group in Iraq since 8 August. President Francois Hollande’s office said Rafale planes had carried out the attack and “the objective was hit and completely destroyed.” The statement added that “Other operations will follow in the coming days.”

  • W.Va. dealing with a growing threat from sovereign citizen movement members

    The FBI classifies some sovereign citizens as terrorists. U.S. law enforcement officials are being warned about members of the sovereign citizen movement — the number one potential terrorist threat in the United States according to a 2014 study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism(START). Law enforcement agencies estimate that there are about 100,000 hard-core members of various sovereign citizens groups around the country, with another 200,000 sympathizers. West Virginia police

  • Deficiencies in U.S. nuclear labs’ emergency preparedness plans: Report

    A recently released study of seventeen U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board(DNFSB), which examined operations at the labs over the last three years, found deficiencies in emergency preparedness plans. Three New Mexico labs — the Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL), the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP) near Carlsbad, and Sandia National Laboratoriesin Albuquerque — exemplify various gaps in disaster preparedness throughout the nation’s nuclear defense system.

  • U.S. launches campaign to combat recruitment of young Americans by militant groups

    The White House, Justice Department (DOJ), DHS, and the National Counterterrorism Center have formed an alliance to combat the recruitment of young Americans to join militant groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Somali-based al-Shabaab.Officials have not released details on the network of community partnerships but local law enforcement officials, religious leaders, teachers, mental health professionals, and parents are expected to help monitor at-risk youths.

  • Preparing the next generation of nuclear emergency responders

    The catastrophic failure of Japan’s Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 was a turning point in how the scientific community viewed nuclear emergencies. Up to then, the emphasis had been on prevention, not response. Virginia Tech’s Sonja Schmid has won a 2014 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Development (CAREER) Award to study the prospects and problems of creating a global nuclear emergency response plan. Key issues to be addressed in her research are how to convince the world that any nuclear accident is everybody’s problem and how to mobilize an effective international response.

  • Improved gas mask protects U.S. soldiers against lethal attacks

    Choking. Watering eyes. Blistering skin. Convulsions. These are all symptoms of a chemical weapons attack that can lead to imminent death. The lethality of such attacks, most recently the one in Syria in August 2013, can send tremors across the globe. For U.S. Army soldiers, however, chemical weapons present a real danger on the battlefield, and one that requires the most advanced technology to keep them safe. Scientists and researchers at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) have been working toward better protective equipment, including the iconic gas mask.

  • 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.