• Americas’ Longest-Running Insurgency: Lessons for U.S. Longest-Running War

    In 2016, Colombia achieved a remarkable success by seemingly bringing to an end the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running insurgency. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been at war with government forces for more than fifty years. And yet here was a negotiated settlement by which two parties that had been fighting for generations agreed to lay down their arms—by which the guerrilla organization itself would be brought into the government’s formal power structures. The case raises important questions—not least for a U.S. government that watches the clock on its own counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan tick ever closer to two decades. How was this possible? And are there lessons that can be exported and applied to other intransigent conflicts, like Afghanistan?

  • Sounding the Alarm about Another Kind of 9/11

    Richard Clarke knows some things about clear and present dangers. As the first U.S. counterterrorism czar, he tried to alert important White House decision-makers before September 11 about the threat of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, but those warnings were largely ignored; afterwards, he famously apologized publicly for the government’s failures. These days, Clarke is trying to get people to think hard about the next big attack—the cyber version—and all the ones that have already happened.

  • Bashar al-Assad’s Updated, Sinister Version of Biological Warfare

    Biological warfare is generally understood as the deliberate wartime introduction of a lethal pathogen with the intent to kill or maim. Syria under President Bashar al-Assad is pursuing a sinister variation—one with long and dangerous historical precedents. Assad’s government has allowed pathogens normally controlled by public health measures—such as clean water, sanitation, waste disposal, vaccination, and infection control—to emerge as biological weapons through the deliberate destruction and withholding of those measures. The conflict has in effect reversed public health advances to achieve levels of disease not seen since the Napoleonic era.

  • 460,000 Premature Deaths: The Horror That Was Nuclear Weapons Testing

    In March 1954, over the Bikini Atoll, the United States detonated a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb —one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It was the largest explosion ever set off by Americans, and also the dirtiest. Researchers have now found that, more than sixty years after the nuclear tests the United States conducted in the area, the levels of radiation in several Marshall Island atolls, exceed that found at Chernobyl or Fukushima. The United States also detonated hundreds of atomic bombs in Nevada, and a 2017 study suggested that fallout from the Nevada nuclear testing could have led to between 340,000 and 460,000 premature deaths, mostly Americans and mainly through cancer.

  • The Threat of an Electromagnetic Attack

    When much of Venezuela was plunged into darkness after a massive blackout this week, President Nicolás Maduro blamed the power outage on an “electromagnetic attack” carried out by the U.S. The claim was met with skepticism, but Maduro’s claim has raised questions over what exactly is an electromagnetic attack, how likely is it to occur and what impact could it have.

  • Truth and Fearmongering: Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

    Is it a good idea to store 77,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste in a repository in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain? Many Nevada politicians say it is a bad idea, but scientists argue that the facts do not support the fears these politicians stoke. These scientists say that Colorado, whose surface rock contains about a billion tons of uranium, should have much more to worry about than Nevada. One scientist says: “If the Yucca Mountain facility were at full capacity and all the waste leaked out of its glass containment immediately and managed to reach groundwater, the danger would still be 20 times less than that currently posed by natural uranium leaching into the Colorado River.”

  • Jettisoning Arms Control Endangers America’s Edge in Great-Power Politics

    The Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy identified the “reemergence of long-term, strategic competition” with China and Russia as the foremost threat to U.S. national security. Both the White House and Pentagon insist that the U.S. military needs enhanced capabilities to counter growing threats such as Russian hypersonic missiles and new Chinese warships and submarines. Yet, as the Trump administration escalates its hard-power focus, it is systematically eroding the restrictions on hard power that historically have limited the strength of potential great-power challengers.

  • No, Lyme Disease Is Not an Escaped Military Bioweapon, Despite What Conspiracy Theorists Say

    Could Lyme disease in the U.S. be the result of an accidental release from a secret bioweapons experiment? Could the military have specifically engineered the Lyme disease bacterium to be more insidious and destructive – and then let it somehow escape the lab and spread in nature? Is this why 300,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with this potentially debilitating disease? It’s an old conspiracy theory currently enjoying a resurgence with lots of sensational headlines and tweets. Even Congress has ordered that the Pentagon must reveal whether it weaponized ticks. And it’s not true.

  • What Dragonflies Can Teach Us about Missile Defense

    Dragonfly brains might be wired to be extremely efficient at calculating complex trajectories: Dragonflies catch 95 percent of their prey, crowning them one of the top predators int he world. Sandia Lab scientists are is examining whether dragonfly-inspired computing could improve missile defense systems, which have the similar task of intercepting an object in flight, by making on-board computers smaller without sacrificing speed or accuracy.

  • Missile Strike False Alarm Most Stressful for Less Anxious Hawaiians: Study

    After learning that a warning of a missile headed to Hawaii was a false alarm, the most anxious local Twitter users calmed down more quickly than less anxious users, according to a study of tweets before, during and after the event. “Can a false alarm of an impending disaster itself be a form of trauma? Our results suggest that the experience may have a lingering impact on some individuals well after the threat is dispelled,” says an expert.

  • Keeping First Responders Safe

    When two powerful earthquakes rocked southern California earlier this month, officials’ attention focused, understandably, on safety. How many people were injured? Were buildings up to code? How good are we at predicting earthquakes? Not a lot of people were thinking about urine, blood, and spit. But those substances are key to a PNNL effort to learn more about the health and safety of first responders.

  • Machine-learning Competition Improves Earthquake Prediction Capabilities

    Current scientific studies related to earthquake forecasting focus on three key points: when the event will occur, where it will occur, and how large it will be. The Kaggle competition, hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory, provided a challenging dataset that was based on previously published laboratory analysis, to give the competitors a taxing project to explore. Competitors’ success predicting quake timing in the online Kaggle competition could help save lives, infrastructure.

  • Epigenetic Tool for Detecting Exposure to WMD

    With a $38.8 million award from DARPA, researchers are working on developing a field-deployable, point-of-care device that will determine in 30 minutes or less whether a person has been exposed to weapons of mass destruction or their precursors. The device will be capable of detecting the health effects of a number of substances associated with weapons of mass destruction, including biological agents, radiation, chemicals and explosives. The detection devices will scan potential exposure victims for epigenetic changes, that is, chemical modifications that affect genes, altering their expression while leaving the genetic code intact.

  • FBI Director: China No. 1 Counter-Intelligence Threat to the U.S.

    The FBI has more than 1,000 investigations of U.S. intellectual property theft in all 50 states with nearly all leading back to China, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, calling China the No. 1 counter-intelligence threat to the United States. Wray described the threat as “more deep, more diverse, more vexing, more challenging, more comprehensive and more concerning than any counter-intelligence threat that I can think of.”

  • 40 U.S. Diplomats in Cuba Have Suffered Brain Damage: Medical Report

    Brain imaging of 40 U.S. government personnel who served at the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2016, and who experienced a host of neurological symptoms after possible exposure of an unknown source, revealed significant differences in brain tissue and connectivity when compared to healthy individuals, according to a new report. Images reveal key brain differences, particularly in the cerebellum, between impacted patients and healthy individuals, which may underlie clinical findings previously reported by brain experts.