Government

  • Ricin toxin vaccine shows promise in a non-human primate study

    Ricin toxin is a plant toxin thought to be a bioterror threat because of its stability and high potency as well as the large worldwide reservoir created as a by-product of castor oil production. As a poison, ricin is so potent that the U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the lethal dose in humans is about the size of a grain of salt. There are currently no effective means to prevent the effects of ricin poisoning. Soligenix, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing several biodefense vaccines and therapeutics, announced last week promising preliminary results from a preclinical study with its ricin toxin vaccine RiVax, in a non-human primate (NHP) lethal aerosol exposure model.

  • U.S. forms an international coalition to fight, defeat ISIS

    The United States has announced it is forming a “core coalition” to fight Islamic State in Iraq, and has given the new group of states two weeks to finalize plans to help the Iraqi government and the Kurds in the north intensify the campaign against the militants. The core group consists of NATO members, but it is expected that Iraq’s Sunni neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf states (except Jihadists-supporting Qatar), and even Arab countries farther afield such as Egypt and Morocco, will cooperate closely with the coalition and lend support to its operations, and that some of these Sunni countries would join it.

  • Growing cyberthreats lead to growing interest in cybersecurity insurance

    The increasing sophistication and scope of cyberattacks on businesses – and the increasing damage such attacks are causing – have led to growing interest in cybersecurity insurance. The industry is urging the government to treat cyberattacks as acts of terrorism which should be covered under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA), while also looking into how the Stafford Actcould help companies after a cyberterror attack. At the same time, more private insurers are offering limited cyber-coverage, but many say they would discontinue selling cyber policies if TRIA is not renewed. As the term “cyber-coverage” continues to be defined by large insurers, the insurance product lines continue to change.

  • Who is to blame when iCloud is "hacked" – you or Apple?

    A hacker’s release of personal photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities on the Internet on the weekend has again drawn our attention to the security of our personal information online. Apple may wish to absolve itself of responsibility when individuals lose control of their personal data, yet understanding the control of data as a personal matter disregards how iCloud and similar services actually operate. If Apple and other cloud-based services want our trust, then they have to acknowledge the role their products play in perpetuating anxieties of data-out-of-control.

  • Captured documents reveal IS’s interest in acquiring bioterror weapons

    Terrorist organizations have been trying to acquire or build biological weapons of mass destruction, and now, with the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS), analysts are concerned that the Islamist group may gain access to bio-labs in Syria or Iraq. A laptop belonging to a Tunisian who joined ISIS was recently found in Syria, contained documents about how to build and use biological weapons.

  • ISIS beheads second American hostage

    ISIS has released a video yesterday which depicted the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist kept captive by the group. It appears that Sotloff had been killed by the same U.K.-born ISIS militant who beheaded James Foley two weeks ago. U.S. intelligence experts said the video was authentic. The killer warned President Obama to “back off” and end the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS targets, then warned other governments which might join the “evil” actions of the United States against ISIS. The video shows another kneeling captive, who is described as a British national (the U.K. has identified the hostage as David Cawthorne Haines, an aid worker).

  • U.S. opens a second drone base in Niger

    The Pentagon has reached an agreement with the government of Niger to open a second U.S. drone base in the landlocked country. The base, in the city of Agadez, will help the U.S. Air Force track Islamist militants who have gained control of remote parts of North and West Africa. U.S. and French troops already operate out of a military base in Niamey, Niger’s capital, where drones are set to conduct reconnaissance flights throughout the region.

  • Los Angeles thinking of ways to shore up aging infrastructure

    Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the nation by population size, has been dealing with crumbling infrastructure for years now. More than 10 percent of the city’s 7,200 miles of water pipes were built ninety years ago. About 40 percent of the region’s 6,500 miles of roads and highways are graded D or F, requiring so much money to fix them that the city is simply concentrating its maintenance efforts on C-graded roads, since they cost less to fix. Additionally, more than 4,000 of the 10,750 miles of sidewalks seriously need repair, according to city officials.

  • U.S. strike kills al-Shabab’s spiritual leader

    The U.S. military has attacked the Islamic al-Shabab network in Somalia yesterday (Monday). The Pentagon said the operation targeted the group’s fugitive leader. A senior Somali intelligence official said that a U.S. drone targeted al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane as he left a meeting of the group’s top leaders. Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, is the group’s spiritual leader who forged an alliance between Somali militants and al-Qaeda. About 100 U.S. Navy SEALs and other Special Operation forces have been operating in different parts of Somalia for more than a year now.

  • Former head of Internal Affairs at CBP: Agency suffers from “institutional narcissism”; conducting its affairs beyond “constitutional constraints”

    In what may become the most explosive scandal in the history of the U.S. Border Patrol, James F. Tomsheck, former head of Internal Affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), accused his own agency of protecting its agents from criminal charges, including murder, corruption, and graft. Tomsheck also directly pointed the finger at CBP senior management, including former Commissioner Alan Bersin and Chief David Aguilar. Tomsheck, who served until June of this year as the head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, characterized his agency as suffering from “institutional narcissism” and maintaining a culture which allowed its agents to act beyond “constitutional constraints”

  • Better security for Europe’s mass transportation

    When a suspicious individual flees on a bus or by train, things usually get tough for the police. This is because the security systems of the various transportation companies and security services are typically incompatible. The EU project, Secur-ED (Secure Urban Mass Transportation – European Demonstrator), aims to correct this by establishing better collaboration among transportation companies within the same city.

  • Scientists improve accuracy, reliability of nuclear tests inspection

    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) operates the International Monitoring System (IMS) — 279 sensors-equipped facilities around the world which detect four types of physical phenomena that can provide evidence of a nuclear explosion having taken place: seismic waves, radioactive nuclei, underwater sound waves, and infrasonic waves. The evidence from the IMS is not always enough to convince signatories of the CTBT that a nuclear test has taken place. Scientists are trying to improve the accuracy and reliability of the IMS system.

  • ISIS threat in Iraq exposes Obama’s failed policy in Syria: Administration insiders

    President Barack Obama has been coming under growing criticism over his policy – or, as some critics would argue, lack of policy — toward the Jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria. The criticism is increasingly coming from members of his own administration. They argue that the failure to help the moderate elements among the Syrian rebels not only helped Assad stay in power, but also allowed the Jihadists to cement their power over a large swath of Syria and then move south to control a third of Iraq. The president has recently asked for $500 million to help train moderate Syrian rebels, but even those who supported such a move two years ago say it may be too late.

  • Napa earthquake may persuade lawmakers to fund earthquake warning system

    Last Sunday’s Napa earthquake may push Congress to increase funding for an earthquake warning system. Building out the West Coast earthquake warning system, called ShakeAlert, would cost $120 million over five years, and an additional $16 million a year to operate. Today, ShakeAlert operates in a testing phase, and sensors notify researchers and volunteer participants when an earthquake has been detected.

  • Residents of six Real ID-noncompliant states to face restrictions

    Massachusetts is one of the six states whose residents are unable to enter restricted parts of federal buildings without another identification card, such as a passport. The REAL ID measure requires states to verify citizenship and update security standards when issuing licenses. Officials in Massachusetts, Maine, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, and Louisiana say that the REAL ID program will cost millions and that it raises privacy concerns and infringes on state’ rights.