Government

  • EbolaFirst New York Ebola case confirmed

    Dr. Craig Spencer, who had been working with Doctors without Borders in Guinea and treating Ebola patients before returning to New York City on 14 October, was taken to Bellevue Hospital yesterday (Thursday) and placed in strict isolation. Tests later determined that he had contracted the Ebola virus. Spencer is the first New Yorker diagnosed with Ebola. As if in anticipation of a case like Dr. Spencer’s, more than 5,000 healthcare workers in New York participated in a three-hour session earlier this week to prepare for Ebola should an infected person arrive in the New York City region.

  • China syndromeChina steals confidential data on the vulnerabilities of major U.S. dams

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams(NID) contains critical information on the vulnerabilities of the roughly 8,100 major dams in the United States. Between January and April 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies spotted several attempts by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cyber-espionage unit to access the NID database and steal its contents. On Monday, National Weather Service (NWS) hydrologist Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, 59 was arrested for allegedly breaching the NID security and stealing confidential data on U.S. dam vulnerabilities. The Justice Department has raised the alarm over multiple attempts by China to steal data on U.S. critical infrastructure through individuals with privileged access to confidential databases.

  • SurveillanceLaw enforcement: Apple iOS 8 software would hinder efforts to keep public safety

    With its new iOS 8 operating software, Apple is making it more difficult for law enforcement to engage in surveillance of users of iOS8 smartphones. Apple has announced that photos, e-mail, contacts, and other personal information will now be encrypted, using the user’s very own passwords — meaning that Apple will no longer be able to respond to government warrants for the extraction of data.

  • NukesU.S. planning expansion of nuclear production in the face of safety concerns

    Despite the release of a damning report regarding the 14 February nuclear waste accident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the government is planning ramped-up production of nuclear weapons cores, a move which is raising red flags for those calling for reform of nuclear production and storage procedures.

  • CanadaCanada reflective, tense in wake of attack on parliament building

    Canadians are still in shock today — the Globe and Mail’s healdine reads: “Attack on Ottawa: Brazen assault could be turning point for Canada” — at the realization that their country is not more immune to terrorist attacks than their neighbor to the south or fellow democracies across the Atlantic. There were acts of terrorism in  Canada in the past — mostly committed by Quebec separatists in the late 1960 and early 1970s — but yesterday’s attacks had a different feel to them. “A gunman struck at the heart of the Canadian government…. in what was one of the most brazen attacks on a Western government in recent history,” the Globe and Mail wrote.

  • CanadaCanada considering expanding powers of its security agencies

    The Harper government is considering legislation which would expand the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate, apprehend, and detain homegrown terrorists. CSIS wants the power to take advantage of the so-called “Five Eyes” spy network to which Canada, the United Kingdom, America, Australia, and New Zealand all belong. CSIS is also asking for more power to track Canadians believed to have been radicalized, and to take more advantage of anonymous sources. Ottawa officials are talking about whether to give CSIS explicit legislative permission to engage in “threat-diminishment” — a power which the intelligence agency’s watchdog recently pointed out that CSIS already uses, but the law does not explicitly permit.

  • In the trenchesIsrael army in late August saved Irish troops from al-Nusra Jihadists on Golan Heights

    Israel Defense Force (IDF) units on 30 August helped rescue Irish soldiers serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights. The rescue required the IDF to direct heavy fire at the Syrian Jihadists to prevent them from approaching the Irish contingent. The IDF, using its observation posts and aerial intelligence, guided the Irish soldiers so they could avoid concentrations of the heavily armed al-Nusra forces.

  • Coastal infrastructureSea level rise or not, coastal development in south Florida is booming

    Miami and Miami Beach are both considered ground zero for the challenges posed by climate change, as both cities will experience considerable sea level rise by mid-century. Constant flooding will become the norm as high tides reach shores, posing a threat to property and human life. As discouraging as the future may seem for South Florida, residents, real estate investors, and companies are increasing their investments in the area.

  • EbolaCongress ready to allocate additional funds to agencies working on Ebola

    Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

  • ISISFive Britons go to Iraq, Syria every week to join ISIS: U.K. police chief

    The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the most senior U.K. police officer, has revealed that five Britons are travelling to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) every week. Hogan-Howe spoke after it was reported that a third Jihadi from Portsmouth has been killed in the conflict. Hogan-Howe said that the figure of five Britons a week joining ISIS was a minimum and the “drumbeat of terrorism in the U.K.” was now “faster and more intense.” He added: “Those are the ones that we believe have gone. There may be many more who set out to travel to another country and meandered over to Syria and Iraq in a way that is not always possible to spot when you have failed states and leaky borders,” Hogan-Howe said.

  • ISISIslamic State lacks key ingredient to make ‘caliphate’ work: eunuchs

    By Thomas W. Johnson and Richard J. Wassersug

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) as a Muslim caliphate on 29 June 2014, with himself as caliph. Each of the earlier caliphates, however, had two features that ISIS lacks. First, ISIS has yet to establish a proper capital: A true state needs a central place to which taxes are paid and from which laws, regulations, and other administrative functions descend. Second, all previous caliphates relied on a special class of bureaucrats to provide stability and statesmanship. Those were eunuchs, who were unable to impregnate the women sequestered in the palace. As long as ISIS persists in beheading rather than castrating the males it captures, it has little hope of resurrecting a historic caliphate. Granted, ISIS is already acquiring women, but it has no-one to guard them for the caliph and no infertile functionaries to enact the authority of the state. While it has been less than a century since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it is clear that a key concept for continuity with the great caliphates of the past has been lost. Simply stated, if ISIS doesn’t build a deeply fortified city and start producing eunuch bureaucrats, it will never have the stability and endurance of historic caliphates. The best it can hope for is to be recognized as a twenty-first-century predatory horde. If ISIS continues along its current path, it is likely to be remembered like the Vandals — that is, as murderous marauders who get brief mention in high school history classes.

  • TurkeyAbrupt shift: Turkey allows Kurdish peshmerga to cross Turkish territory to help in Kobani’s defense

    Bowing to intensifying U.S. pressure and growing domestic anger, the Turkish government, in an abrupt shift, announced yesterday (Monday) that it would allow Kurdish peshmerga forces from northern Iraq to cross Turkish territory on their way to defend Kurds in the besieged Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani. In another development, the United States has decided to ignore objections by the new Iraqi government to the United States directly providing military aid to the Kurds, and yesterday air-dropped twenty-four tons of weapons and ammunition for the Kurdish defenders of the town in the first supply run the United States had made to the besieged town in nearly five weeks of fighting. Military analysts said the two moves could tip the military balance in favor of the defenders of the Kurdish town in their month-long battle against Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.

  • EbolaStates’ waste disposal laws limit hospitals’ Ebola-related disposal options

    As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The CDC recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste.

  • TurkeyTurkey will not agree to U.S. support for Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria: Erdogan

    Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday (Sunday) that Turkey would not agree to any U.S. arms transfers to Kurdish fighters who are fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria. ISIS increased its pressure on the Kurdish city of Kobani, just inside Syria across the Turkish border, but Turkey views the PYD, the main Syrian Kurdish group defending Kobani, as an extension of the PKK, a pro-Kurdish independence group which, in 1984, had launched an insurgency campaign against the Turkish state – a campaign which, until it officially ended in 2012, had cost the lives of about 42,000 Turks

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.