• Arpaio pardon could encourage more civil rights violations

    President Donald Trump may pardon Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who illegally used racial profiling to enforce immigration laws. It’s true, Trump has the legal power to pardon pretty much anyone. But pardoning Arpaio could send the message that state and local officials can aggressively enforce federal immigration law, even if it risks racial profiling and violating the due process rights of citizens and noncitizens.

  • Identifying vulnerabilities posed by synthetic biology

    Given the possible security vulnerabilities related to developments in synthetic biology – a field that uses technologies to modify or create organisms or biological components – a new report by the National Academies of Sciences proposes a framework to identify and prioritize potential areas of concern associated with the field. “While biotechnology is being pursued primarily for beneficial and legitimate purposes, there are potential uses that are detrimental to humans, other species, and ecosystems,” says one of the report’s authors.

  • EC calls for the rejection of “extremism, nationalism, xenophobia and hatred”

    Today, 23 August, is celebrated in Europe as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. It is also called Black Ribbon Day. It commemorates the signing the neutrality pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union – a pact which led, a week later, to the joint invasion and division of Poland by the two powers — the opening move of the Second World War. “Extremism, nationalism, xenophobia and hatred can still be heard in public speech in Europe,” the European Commission said earlier today. “Keeping these memories alive is not only a tribute to the victims but also a way to ensure that these ideologies can be forcefully rejected and such atrocities never happen again.”

  • Melbourne Christmas Day terror suspects had “mother of Satan” chemicals: Expert

    A court in Australia was told that volatile chemical explosives, nicknamed “mother of Satan,” were found in the possession of four men accused of plotting a Christmas Day terrorist attack in Melbourne. The Australian reports that federal police chemicals expert Dr. Vincent Otieno-Alego told Melbourne magistrates court on Tuesday that he analyzed substances that could produce up to 2g of triacetone triperoxide (TATP).

  • Islamic State’s Twitter network is decimated, but other extremists face much less disruption

    The use of social media by a diversity of violent extremists and terrorists and their supporters has been a matter of concern for law enforcement and politicians for some time. While it appears that Twitter is now severely disrupting pro-IS accounts on its platform, our research found that other jihadists were not subject to the same levels of take down. The migration of the pro-IS social media community from Twitter to the messaging service Telegram particularly bears watching. Telegram currently has a lower profile than Twitter with a smaller user base and higher barriers to entry, with users required to provide a mobile phone number to create an account. While this means that fewer people are being exposed to IS’s online content via Telegram, and are thereby in a position to be radicalized by it, it may mean that Telegram’s pro-IS community is more committed and therefore poses a greater security risk than its Twitter variant.

  • Israel concerned about Iranian influence in Syria

    Israel remains concerned about Iranian influence in southern Syria, despite high level discussions between U.S. and Israeli security officials in Washington last week. An Israeli media report noted that the delegation shared “sensitive, credible and deeply troubling intelligence,” showing the expanding deployment of Iranian forces in Syria, which estimates put at 500 Iranian army soldiers, 5,000 Hezbollah fighters, and several thousand guerrillas from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

  • Weapons experts: IAEA needs full access to Parchin to understand Iran’s nuclear program

    In order to understand Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needs full access to Iran’s Parchin military installation, two experts on nuclear weapons wrote in a report published Monday. The report’s authors wrote that the IAEA has inadequate means to investigate possible Iranian violations of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

  • World’s tech leaders call on UN to ban killer robots

    An open letter by 116 tech leaders from 26 countries urges the United Nations against opening the Pandora’s box of lethal robot weapons. The open letter is the first time that AI and robotics companies have taken a joint stance on the issue. “Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare,” the letter states. “Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

  • Terrorism deaths by ideology: Is Charlottesville an anomaly?

    Terrorists have murdered 3,342 people on U.S. soil from 1992 through 12 August 2017. Islamists committed 92 percent of all those murders; right-wing terrorists account for 219 murders (6.6 percent of all terrorist deaths), and left-wing terrorism killed 23 people since 1992. If we exclude the 9/11 attack (2,983 deaths) and the Oklahoma attack (168 deaths), then Islamist-inspired terrorists are responsible for 53 percent of terrorist murders in the United States; right-wing terrorists account for 5.7 percent of the total, and left-wing terrorists are responsible for 0.26 percent of the total.

  • Are Islamic State recruits more street gang members than zealots?

    The recent terrorist attacks in Spain and Finland once again compel us to ask: Who joins the Islamic State, and why? Evidence suggests that the radicalization model – that is, a step-by-step process whereby individuals cut themselves off from social networks such as family and immerse themselves in a radical religious counterculture — is, at best, only part of the story. More likely, this model is wrong or not universally applicable. Experts say that the evidence suggests that rather than joining a radically different religious counterculture, individuals are attracted to IS because its actions reaffirm the cultural values of those who are marginalized, or those who exhibit what psychiatrists call “anti-social personality disorders.” Could it be that IS volunteers are drawn to a value system that asserts an aggressive machismo, disparages steady work, and sustains the impulse for immediate gratification? Are they attracted to a culture that promotes redemption through violence, loyalty, patriarchal values, self-sacrifice to the point of martyrdom and the diminution of women to objects of pleasure? In this reading, IS more closely resembles the sort of street gang with which many of its Western and Westernized enlistees are familiar than its more austere competitor, al-Qaeda.

  • Priorities for property buyouts in Florida’s flood-prone areas

    Flooding is the most common and damaging of all natural disasters in the United States. In 2016, 44 of the 46 major disaster declarations were related to storms, with flooding being a significant factor in almost 70 percent of them (30 events). In 2016, severe floods in the United States resulted in more than $17 billion in damages (six times higher than in 2015). Twelve individual weather and climate events caused more than $1 billion in damages each, and at least five severe 1,000-year precipitation events occurred in the United States in 2016. A new study proposes that government-funded buyouts, followed by structure demolition or relocation and the restoration of floodplain habitats, can support social, environmental, and economic objectives simultaneously.

  • U.S. needs stronger response to Russian interference in presidential election: Expert

    One of the greatest threats to the United States, Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist Paper #68, was “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils” — “by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union.” John Cohen, former principal deputy undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, says that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election shows how prescient Hamilton was. “During my entire career in homeland security, counter-intelligence and law enforcement, I have not seen a greater existential threat to America’s sovereignty and national security,” he says. “That so many political partisans appear so willing to overlook this threat is alarming – and reflects the national division that may have been one of the goals of the Russian campaign.”

  • How online hate infiltrates social media and politics

    In late February, an anti-Semitic website known as the Daily Stormer — which receives more than 2.8 million monthly visitors — announced, “Jews Destroy Another One of Their Own Graveyards to Blame Trump.” The story was inspired by the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. To whom, and how many, this example of conspiracy mongering 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. 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. When he was asked about the Philadelphia vandalism, President Trump told the Pennsylvania attorney general the incident was “reprehensible.” But he then went on to speculate that it might have been committed “to make others look bad.” That feeds the very doubt that extremist groups thrive on. And the cycle continues.

  • Pompeo: Iran, Hezbollah presence in Venezuela poses serious threat to U.S.

    CIA director Mike Pompeo warned that Iran and Hezbollah’s growing presence in Venezuela poses a serious threat to the United States. Pompeo said that the chaos in Venezuela has the potential to negatively impact the U.S.“The Cubans are there; the Russians are there, the Iranians, Hezbollah are there.” He continued, “This is something that has a risk of getting to a very, very bad place, so America needs to take this very seriously.”

  • How online hate infiltrates social media and politics

    In late February, an anti-Semitic website known as the Daily Stormer — which receives more than 2.8 million monthly visitors — announced, “Jews Destroy Another One of Their Own Graveyards to Blame Trump.” The story was inspired by the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. To whom, and how many, this example of conspiracy mongering 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. 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. When he was asked about the Philadelphia vandalism, President Trump told the Pennsylvania attorney general the incident was “reprehensible.” But he then went on to speculate that it might have been committed “to make others look bad.” That feeds the very doubt that extremist groups thrive on. And the cycle continues.