Government

  • New Web privacy system would revolutionize surfing safety

    Scientists have built a new system that protects Internet users’ privacy while increasing the flexibility for Web developers to build Web applications that combine data from different Web sites, dramatically improving the safety of surfing the Web. The system, “Confinement with Origin Web Labels,” or COWL, works with Mozilla’s Firefox and the open-source version of Google’s Chrome Web browsers and prevents malicious code in a Web site from leaking sensitive information to unauthorized parties, while allowing code in a Web site to display content drawn from multiple Web sites — an essential function for modern, feature-rich Web applications.

  • More law enforcement agencies refuse to hold undocumented inmates for ICE

    Recent court rulings have emboldened roughly 225 law enforcement agencies across the country to refuse requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) officials to hold undocumented inmates past their release dates so federal authorities can have time to deport them. Until recently, inmates suspected of being in the country illegally were held for an additional forty-eight hours until ICE agents arrived. Some municipalities began limiting the number of holds a few years ago, but several counties and cities have begun to ignore the requests all together after recent court rulings confirmed that the immigration holds are not mandatory.

  • Anti-terrorism plan must tackle “allies” who also fuel radicalism

    The coalition of nations stitched together by the United States in response to the developing threat of Islamic State is overlooking the sources of radicalism in the region. This plan not only has nothing to say about these sponsors of terrorism but even empowers fundamentalist groups by forging alliances with them. The U.S.-led alliance includes Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Both countries have been playing counter-productive roles by supporting regional and global Salafi Jihadi movements for a long time. They persist in provoking sectarian strife throughout the region. The emergence of Islamic State cannot be understood without studying its Salafist roots in Saudi Arabia and the financial and media support that has flowed from Qatar. Fighting IS while remaining blind to the sources of radicalism in the region will ultimately be unsuccessful. The only long-term solution is to tackle the source of the problem. This plan must include clear and realistic agendas to reform the education systems of countries in the region, evaluate these U.S. allies’ democratic status, and pressure them to improve their records.

  • Is it fair to blame the West for trouble in the Middle East?

    For at least a decade, attempts to understand why some young Muslims living in Western countries turn to violence in the name of religion have raised questions about Western foreign policy in the Middle East. Many blame the United States’ foreign policy. The Islamic State uses anger and grievance against Western intervention as a powerful recruiting tool. There is some truth to the argument that anger at foreign policy and the West’s engagement with the Arab world is at the heart of Muslim anger, as well as a driver of radicalization among Muslim youth, but the current state of affairs in the Middle East is not simply an outcome of Western intervention and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Western foreign policy in the region has no doubt influenced the current situation, but the conditions for the spread of militant Islamism have come from attempts to deal with the crisis within: a crisis that is as much political in nature as it is religious.

  • Experts urge caution in relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases

    A new report from the National Research Council recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate. Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications, the report says.

  • In U.S. criminal courts, non-citizens face harsher sentencing than citizens

    Non-Americans in the U.S. federal court system are more likely to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms compared to U.S. citizens, according to a new study. The researchers analyzed U.S. federal district court data from 1992 to 2008 for this study. In 2008, for example, 96 percent of convicted non-citizens received a prison sentence, compared to 85 percent of U.S. citizens. The researchers said that the issue of punishment disparities between citizens and non-citizens is a growing concern as the number of non-citizens in the United States — estimated at more than twenty-two million — continues to grow.

  • Law enforcement agencies use technology to compensate for shrinking budgets

    With funding shrinking in many sectors of law enforcement, agencies are searching for new ways to operate affordably while maintaining quality standards.Police departments’ budgets quadrupled between 1982 and 2006. With federal budgets shrining, there are simply too many challenges which would not allow for police budgeting-as-usual.

  • California agriculture faces greatest water loss ever seen

    California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and nearly a quarter of the nation’s milk and cream. Across the nation, consumers regularly buy several crops grown almost entirely in California, including tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, grapes, olives, and figs. Researchers show that California agriculture is weathering its worst drought in decades due to groundwater reserves, but the nation’s produce basket may come up dry in the future if it continues to treat those reserves like an unlimited savings account.

  • California crippling drought linked to climate change: Scientists

    The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California’s crippling drought are far more likely to occur under today’s global warming conditions than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases. Researchers used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

  • Assad retains secret caches of chemical weapons: Israeli intelligence

    Despite committing to dismantle and give up its chemical weapons – Syria was in possession of the world’s largest chemical weapons stock — President Bashar al-Assad’s regime still maintains a “residual” chemical weapons capacity, consisting of a few tons of the proscribed materials. Israel’s intelligence community has concluded that the Assad regime has decided to keep this reduced, but still formidable, chemical weapons capability, and has successfully concealed it from the inspectors of the UN chemical weapons watchdog who, a few weeks ago, have declared the chemical disarmament of Syria to be officially complete. Israeli defense officials believe that these sarin gas weapons would likely be deployed if the Assad regime faced an imminent threat to its survival. The Syrian regime is continuing to use chemical weapons which were not covered by the U.S.-Russian chemical weapons disarmament agreement, especially chlorine gas.

  • Cost of U.S. war on ISIS reaches $780 million

    The cost of the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) Islamist group has totaled at least $780 million, according to a new estimate, as U.S. warplanes and drones continued to strike Isis positions in Iraq and Syria on Monday and Tuesday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday that the U.S. military is spending up to $10 million a day and will likely request more money from Congress to fund the war. The attacks on ISIS began 8 August, and before they were expanded to include targets in Syria, the Pentagon estimated the daily war costs at $7.5 million.

  • $3 million in grants for three pilot projects to improve online security, privacy

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) the other day announced nearly $3 million in grants that will support projects for online identity protection to improve privacy, security and convenience. The three recipients of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) grants will pilot solutions that make it easier to use mobile devices instead of passwords for online authentication, minimize loss from fraud and improve access to state services.

  • Obama: U.S. intelligence underestimated ISIS strength, overestimated Iraqi military's resilience

    President Barack Obama on Sunday said that the U.S. intelligence community had underestimated Islamic State (ISIS) strength and level of activity inside Syria, which has become “ground zero” for jihadist terrorists worldwide, while overestimating the ability of the Iraqi army to fight such militant groups. Obama’s admission that ISIS succeeded in setting up its bases in Syria and Iraq without being noticed by U.S. intelligence may embolden Republican hawks such Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) who have been complaining for months that the administration was being too passive in its approach to the Syrian civil war.

  • ISIS, al-Nusra reconcile as Syria air strikes continue

    Under continuing strikes by U.S. and coalition air forces, ISIS moved toward a new alliance with Syria’s largest al-Qaeda-affiliated group. Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been at odds with ISIS for more than a year now, was also subjected to U.S. air strikes which killed scores of the group’s members. Many al-Nusra units in northern Syria now appear to have reconciled with ISIS, following months of bitter clashes between the two groups.

  • New DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

    Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.