• U.K. intel agency dismisses claim it helped wiretap Trump as “utterly ridiculous”

    High-level British intelligence officials have angrily rejected an allegation that the U.K. intelligence service helped former president Barack Obama “wiretap” Donald Trump during the 2016 election. White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeated the claim in his Thursday press briefing. A spokesperson for the U.K. intelligence service dismissed Spicer’s claim as “utterly ridiculous.” A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday: “We’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored.”

  • In first, Israel’s Arrow-3 system intercepts Syrian missile fired at Israeli jet

    Israel’s Arrow-3 system successfully intercepted a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that was shot at Israeli jets conducting a mission in Syria on Thursday night, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. It is the first time that the Arrow-3 system is known to have been used operationally.

  • Declassifying rescued nuclear test films

    The United States conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, with multiple cameras capturing each event at around 2,400 frames per second. But in the decades since, around 10,000 of these films sat idle, scattered across the country in high-security vaults. Not only were they gathering dust, the film material itself was slowly decomposing, bringing the data they contained to the brink of being lost forever. For the past five years, physicists, film experts, archivists, and software developers have been on a mission to hunt down, scan, reanalyze, and declassify these decomposing films. The goals are to preserve the films’ content before it is lost forever, and provide better data to the post-testing-era scientists.

  • How online hate infiltrates social media and politics

    In late February, the headline of a news commentary website that receives more than 2.8 million monthly visitors announced, “Jews Destroy Another One of Their Own Graveyards to Blame Trump.” With only a headline, this site can achieve something no hate group could have accomplished twenty years ago: It can connect with a massive audience. Looking at the most-visited websites of what were once diminished movements – white supremacists, xenophobic militants, and Holocaust deniers, to name a few – reveals a much-revitalized online culture. To whom, and how many, this latest conspiracy may travel is, in part, the story of “fake news,” the phenomenon in which biased propaganda is disseminated as if it were objective journalism in an attempt to corrupt public opinion. Today’s radical right is also remaking its profile, swapping swastikas and white-power rock for political blogs and news forums. The trappings may have changed, but the bigotry remains. Hate rhetoric repackaged as politics and housed in websites that look just like any other online blog can attract, or even persuade, more moderate ideologues to wade into extremist waters. This “user-friendly” hate community is joining forces in a way that could never happen in the offline world. Thanks in part to this connectedness, these poisoned narratives are now spreading well beyond racist websites.

  • If surveillance cameras are to be kept in line, the rules will have to keep pace with technology

    The growing prevalence of cameras and greater understanding of the many ways in which we are surveilled has led many – including the current commissioner, Tony Porter, to voice concern that Britain is “sleepwalking into a surveillance state”. This raises critical questions about whether we can be confident that all these cameras are being used in a way the public would approve of – and if not, whether regulation can force CCTV operators into line. In the future, surveillance camera processes will become more opaque, more sophisticated, and potentially integrated with data from a variety of sources, including social media, meaning decisions about who to survey and who determines intensive surveillance will be determined by big data and algorithms. Any regulatory framework that does not or cannot keep up with the pace of change will soon become worthless.

  • Predicting crime knowledge states in the human brain

    Judges and juries always ponder whether people act “knowingly” or “recklessly” during criminal activity — and neuroscience has had little to add to the conversation. But now, researchers have discovered that brain imaging can determine whether someone is acting in a state of knowledge about a crime — which brings about stiffer penalties — or a state of recklessness, which even in capital crimes such as homicide, calls for less severe sentences.

  • Predicting floods, hurricanes with social media

    Social media can warn us about hurricanes, storms, and floods before they happen – according to new research. Key words and photos on social media can signal developing risks – like water levels rising before a flood. Researchers, who analyzed posts on Flickr between 2004 and 2014, found certain words – such as river, water, and landscape - take on distinct meaning of forecast and warning during time periods leading to extreme weather events. Words can be used as ‘social sensors’, to create accurate early warning system for extreme weather, alongside physical sensors.

  • Nuclear expert: “Real risk” that Iran and N. Korea cooperating on nuclear matters

    There is a “real risk” that Iran and North Korea are engaged in illicit nuclear cooperation, a former United Nations weapons inspector and nuclear non-proliferation expert said. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, called on the Trump administration to investigate any potential nuclear collaboration between the two nations.

  • The hollow threat of nukes

    As President Trump signals that he wants to expand the nation’s nuclear arsenal, two experts say said nuclear weapons deter aggression, but that there is no evidence to support the common view that they are also useful as a coercive tool against adversaries. “[B]efore we spend $1 trillion buying new and more capable nuclear weapons, it’s worth taking a step back and asking, what is all of that money bringing us?” they said.

  • More effective response to unpredictable disasters

    When the unthinkable happens and the unpredictable takes over, crises cannot be handled by the book. Traditional emergency work emphasizes fixed procedures and strong leadership, as is typically exemplified by the police force. This approach works in most emergency situations – but not when the unthinkable happens. Evaluations of past events show that the scale of many disasters could have been reduced if local decision-making power had been greater — that is, if the part of the team that was closest to the situation had been involved in a different way.

  • How disaster relief efforts could be improved with game theory

    The number of disasters has doubled globally since the 1980s, with the damage and losses estimated at an average $100 billion a year since the new millennium, and the number of people affected also growing. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the costliest natural disaster in the U.S., with estimates between $100 billion and $125 billion. The death toll of Katrina is still being debated, but we know that at least 2,000 were killed, and thousands were left homeless. Worldwide, the toll is staggering. The challenges to disaster relief organizations, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), are immense, and the competition among them is intense. My team and I have been looking at a novel way to improve how we respond to natural disasters. One solution might be game theory.

  • The WikiLeaks CIA release: When will we learn?

    This week’s WikiLeaks release of what is apparently a trove of Central Intelligence Agency information related to its computer hacking should surprise no one: Despite its complaints of being targeted by cyberattackers from other countries, the U.S. does a fair amount of its own hacking. Multiple federal agencies are involved, including the CIA and the National Security Agency, and even friendly nations. These latest disclosures also remind us of the cybersecurity truism that any electronic device connected to a network can be hacked. If the United States is going to be successful at securing its crucial government information, it must do a better job managing the volume of information generated and controlling access to it, both authorized and otherwise. Granted, neither is an easy task. However, absent fundamental changes that fix the proverbial cult of classification, there likely will be many more WikiLeaks-type disclosures in the future.

  • The loaded history of self-defense

    After the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, Harvard historian Caroline Light felt compelled to explore the roots of the American right to self-defense, which has helped turned the United States into a country with more guns than people. In her new book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense, Light traces the development of the notion of self-defense from English common law to contemporary stand-your-ground gun laws.

  • New avalanche, snow burial practice guidelines

    With the growing popularity of backcountry snow activities, it is increasingly important to understand the best techniques for avalanche rescue. Each year, there are over 150 avalanche fatalities in the US and Europe, with most deaths occurring among recreational groups that include skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, and mountaineers. The Wilderness Medical Society has issued new practice guidelines to help medical professionals, as well as the public, understand the latest techniques and recommendations for avalanche risk management and rescue protocols.

  • White supremacists dramatically increase recruitment efforts on U.S. college campuses

    White supremacists, emboldened by the 2016 elections and the current political climate, are currently engaged in an unprecedented outreach effort to attract and recruit students on American college campuses. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has cataloged 107 incidents of white supremacist fliering on college campuses since the school year began in September 2016, with surge of activity since January 2017, when 63 of the total incidents (61 percent) occurred.