• What if it happened again? What we need to do to prepare for a nuclear event

    As we observe the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it may seem like the threat from nuclear weapons has receded. But it hasn’t; the threat is actually increasing steadily. This is difficult to face for many people, and this denial also means that we are not very well-prepared for nuclear and radiological events. Any nuclear weapon exchange or major nuclear plant meltdown will immediately lead to a global public health emergency. The Ebola outbreak taught the world that we should have resources in place to handle a major health emergency before it happens. What would a Nuclear Global Health Workforce need to be prepared to manage? For that we can look back at the legacy of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the nuclear accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima.

  • U.S. Navy champions unmanned systems over, on, and under the sea

    The presence of unmanned systems in the maritime military domain is growing, and the U.S. Navy has decided to make several organizational, and conceptual, changes in order to deal with unmanned systems in a more holistic fashion. Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier has been named the Navy’s first director of unmanned weapon systems, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in April that he would appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems, “so that all aspects of unmanned — in all domains — over, on and under the sea and coming from the sea to operate on land — will be coordinated and championed.”

  • Counter-drone technologies demonstrated at DoD’s Black Dart event

    Small, unmanned aircraft systems (UASs, aka UAVs, for unmanned aerial vehicle), or drones, are easy to obtain and launch and they are hard to detect on radar, making them of particular concern to law enforcement and the Department of Defense. Earlier this month DHS circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. DOD says that Black Dart 2015, which began 26 July and ran through 7 August, is the Department of Defense’s largest live-fly, live-fire joint counter-UAS technology demonstration. One of the innovative developers of counter-UAS technologies is SRC Inc., a not-for-profit company formerly affiliated with Syracuse University. The company showed its SR Hawk surveillance radar, which is integral to its layered approach to defending against UASs.

  • Police more likely to be killed on duty in states with high gun ownership: Study

    Camden and Newark, New Jersey, are perceived as two of the most violent cities in the nation, yet New Jersey’s police officers are among the least likely to get shot on the job. Montana, with its serene landscapes and national parks, has among the highest homicide rates for law enforcement officers. Why? Across all fifty states and the District of Columbia, homicides of police officers are linked to the statewide level of gun ownership, according to a new study. The study found that police officers serving in states with high private gun ownership are more than three times more likely to be killed on the job than those on the job in states with the lowest gun ownership.

  • DHS S&T licenses innovative communication technology to commercial partners

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) last week announced that it has licensed the Radio Internet-Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M) to two commercial partners. RIC-M, used by local, state, and federal responders, is a low-cost, external, stand-alone, interface device that connects radio frequency (RF) system base stations, consoles and other RF equipment — regardless of brand — over the Internet or Private Internet Protocol (IP) network.

  • Sandia teams with industry to improve human-data interaction

    Intelligence analysts working to identify national security threats in warzones or airports or elsewhere often flip through multiple images to create a video-like effect. They also may toggle between images at lightning speed, pan across images, zoom in and out or view videos or other moving records. These dynamic images demand software and hardware tools that will help intelligence analysts analyze the images more effectively and efficiently extract useful information from vast amounts of quickly changing data. Sandia Lab and EyeTracking, Inc. will research and develop tools to improve how intelligence analysts gather visual information.

  • view counter
  • Bill requiring Internet companies to report “terrorist activity” opposed by digital rights groups

    A coalition of digital rights groups and trade associations last week released a joint letter opposing a proposal in the Senate to require U.S. tech firms to police the speech of their users and to report any signs of apparent “terrorist activity” to law enforcement. The letter says that this sweeping mandate covers an undefined category of activities and communications and would likely lead to significant over-reporting by communication service providers. The letter urged senators to remove the “terrorist activity” reporting requirements from the Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 1705).

  • Leading U.S. scientists support Iran deal

    Twenty-nine of leading U.S. scientists – among them Nobel laureates, nuclear weapons designers, and former White House and congressional science advisers – on Saturday sent a letter to President Barack Obama to express their support of the nuclear deal reached between the P5+1 powers and Iran, and to stress that in their professional assessment the deal “technically sound, stringent and innovative.” Most of the twenty-nine who signed the letter have held Q clearances, a top security clearance which grants its holders access to a special category of secret information related to the design of nuclear weapons. The scientists’ letter as describe as “without precedent” the deal’s explicit ban on Iran’s research on nuclear weapons “rather than only their manufacture,” as prescribed in the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

  • Reversal: UN now calls for identifying perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria

    The UN Security Council on Friday has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for identifying those using chlorine and other chemical weapons in attacks in Syria. Friday’s resolution is a reversal of Russia’s position, and another indication that Russia is distancing itself from Assad. In 2013, when the Security Council passed the resolution authorizing the removal of chemical weapons from Syria, Russia – which, with Iran, is Assad’s main supporter – conditioned its support for the resolution on adding to it a clause which would explicitly prohibit Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) or the UN from determining who is responsible for chemical attacks in Syria, if such attacks continue. The Friday resolution fills a gap in attributing blame for chemical weapons attacks, allowing for the perpetrators of such attacks to be brought to justice.

  • U.K. conducted chemical weapons experiments on “unconsenting participants”

    In 1963 the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s Porton Down military science center carried out the first of a series of tests to release zinc cadmium sulphide in the atmosphere over Norwich. It was one of many examples of secret experiments conducted in the name of military research during the 1950s and 1960s, now chronicled for the first time in a new book. The book provides a comprehensive overview of state military scientific research on chemical and biological weapons by Britain, the United States, and Canada since the First World War. Between 1946 and 1976, “Britain was turned into a large-scale open-air laboratory; her people into an army of unconsenting participants,” the author writes.

  • Historic drought complicates firefighting in California

    The twenty-one wild fires which have erupted in different parts of the state have already cost lives, dozens of homes, and millions of dollars in damages. To fight fires, firefighters need water – and although state water and fire officials say that, so far, there is no danger of running out of water, they are conscious of the state’s water predicament and they are trying to be more careful in the use of water. The persistent drought has forced crews to get creative, using more dirt and retardant on wildfires. Firefighting response to several blazes has been slowed down by the drought, because firefighting helicopters found it impossible to siphon water from lakes and ponds where water levels were lower than in previous years. In the past, property owners whose properties were threatened by fire, would allow firefighting crews to tap water on their property, and would then be compensated by cash reimbursements from the state. Now, many property owners demand instead that the state replenish the water used by firefighters to protect the owners’ property.

  • Pentagon: Climate change aggravates U.S. security risks

    Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress last week. The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security, and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.

  • Improving West Coast earthquake early warning system

    UC Berkeley is among four universities to receive grants last week from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help bring the planned ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system toward a production stage. Among other tasks, the partners also will continue development of scientific algorithms rapidly to detect potentially damaging earthquakes, more thoroughly test the system, and improve its performance.

  • Students race robot submarines in RoboSub competition

    High school and college engineering students from across the globe competed for bragging rights and cash prizes at the 18th International RoboSub Competition, which wrapped up 26 July. The mission theme for this year’s contest played on the theme of the “Back to the Future,” movie trilogy. The individual autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) had to navigate and complete an obstacle course — with tasks like “check the flux capacitor” and “travel through the time portal” — without human or computer interaction by team members.

  • $4 million awarded to support earthquake early warning system in Pacific Northwest

    The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) last week has awarded approximately $4 million to four universities — California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington, and University of Oregon — to support transitioning the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning (EEW) system toward a production stage. A functioning early warning system can give people a precious few seconds to stop what they are doing and take precautions before the severe shaking waves from an earthquake arrive.