• Who’s Who in Mosul: A guide to the most important battle in the fight against ISIS

    On 17 October, the Iraqi government officially declared its plans to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State, more than two years after the city was captured. Unfortunately, winning will require cooperation many different parties. The Shiite government of Iraq, as well as the country’s Shiite militias, both want to be involved in the recapture of Mosul. So do Sunni actors, which include Iraqi tribes, Turkey, and the Kurds. And then there are the forces of the Yazidis and Christians.

  • Mosul will fall – but it may take a bigger U.S. presence to force Islamic State out

    The 5,000 ISIS paramilitaries deployed to defend Mosul will eventually lose to the 60,000-strong coalition forces arrayed against them. But a defeat in Mosul, or even in Raqqa, may not finish ISIS off. As IS moves away from being fixated on its caliphate, it is now embarking on more of a virtual existence – recruiting across the world with a focus on Western countries. And even if ISIS is in decline, what is happening in parallel is the rebirth of groups linked formally or informally to al-Qaeda which has reinvented itself as a less extreme entity that pays greater deference to local cultures and is promoting this in marked contrast to the sheer brutality of ISIS.

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  • Loophole in Rhode Island law allows domestic abusers to keep firearms, despite risks

    Courts in Rhode Island rarely require abusers to turn in their firearms, even when orders prohibit them from possessing firearms under federal law and there is evidence they pose a lethal risk to victims, according to new research. examined 1,609 case files of protective orders filed in Rhode Island Family and District courts from 2012 to 2014. “In Rhode Island, domestic abusers are rarely required to turn in their firearms — even when they are federally prohibited from possessing them,” said one researcher. “Addressing this gap in the state’s law could help prevent risk of gun violence to potential abuse victims.”

  • Russian nationalists tried to topple pro-West Montenegro government

    Montenegro said that Russian nationalists were behind a coup attempt in Montenegro. The coups involved assassinating the pro-Western prime minister because of his government’s support for joining NATO, and install a pro-Russian coalition to run the country. Moscow has openly supported what it called the “patriotic parties” in Montenegro which oppose Montenegro becoming a member of NATO. Serbia has deported an undisclosed number of Russian diplomates and operatives who were monitoring the Montenegro prime minister’s movements from Serbian territory.

  • Boycott-Israel movement tainted by ties to terrorists, researchers find

    The campaign to subject Israel to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) is tainted by ties to the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), researchers from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said. The PFLP, which was founded in 1967 as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group, is the second-biggest entity within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department since 1997.

  • When dictators die of natural causes, their regimes remain intact

    A dictator’s death of natural causes rarely leads to regime change, according to a new study that comes as the remaining fifty-five authoritarian rulers currently in power are at least seventy years old and in various stages of declining health. The researchers have studied all seventy-nine cases of dictators dying in office between 1946 and 2012 and found the ruling regime remained intact through the following year 87 percent of the time.

  • How hard is it to rig an election?

    How do you rig an election? Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claims our system of elections are rigged – asserting that widespread voter impersonation exists, that large numbers of dead people vote, and that many noncitizens have successfully registered to vote and regularly do so. Don’t believe it. One roadblock to rigging the elections is the fact that the American system of election administration is hyper-localism. More than 5,000 municipal and county election officials administer elections across more than 8,000 local jurisdictions across the United States. Another roadblock is the sheer number of votes involved. Presidential elections generally prompt higher turnout than any other election — in the 2012 presidential election, 130 million people cast their ballots. The sheer size of the electorate, and the sheer number of different local jurisdictions, suggest that attempting to “rig” the system would require a level of coordination even greater than the coordination needed to “get out the vote” on Election Day itself. Such a vast conspiracy cannot possibly be concealed. All of this adds up to a system of election administration that is virtually impossible to penetrate in the name of massive fraud that would shift the results of an election. So don’t believe it when someone tries to tell you the vote is rigged.

  • Food for thought: Including agriculture in biosecurity and biodefense

    From agriculture to animal health, Kansas State University has been on the forefront of the national discussion in bio/agrodefense since it published the Homeland Defense Food Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Program — also known as “The Big Purple Book” — in 1999. Recently, the university co-hosted an event at the Bipartisan Policy Center, highlighted the threat of bio/agroterrorism and the importance of including agriculture in biosecurity and biodefense.

  • New genetic mutations in antibiotic-resistant bioterrorism agent identified

    Researchers have identified new genetic mutations in antibiotic-resistant Francisella tularensis bacteria that could be used in a bioterrorist attack. The mutations confer resistance to ciprofloxacin (Cipro), one of the most common antibiotic treatments. F. tularensis is a Category A Select Agent, a designation for organisms and toxins that pose the greatest risk to public health and safety, such as the microbes that cause anthrax and plague.

  • False economy: Savings from cutting U.S. overseas security commitments dwarfed by lost U.S. trade

    Proponents of U.S. foreign policy “retrenchment” have called for steep reductions in U.S. overseas security commitments, contending that the U.S. commitments are too costly to sustain, allow partner governments to free-ride off the U.S. defense budget, and fail to deliver the promised security and stability. A new study finds, however, that the policy of engagement the United States has followed since the 1940s has contributed greatly to U.S. prosperity by making the world politically and militarily stable, thus fostering international economic stability which has benefitted the United States by increasing trade in goods and services and access to global capital, leading to higher rates of economic growth at home. Reducing U.S. overseas security commitments, including U.S. troops stationed abroad as well as U.S. security treaties, could lead to greatly reduced U.S. trade with other countries, with the economic costs from lost trade estimated to be more than triple any associated savings in U.S. defense spending.

  • NICE framework provides resource for stronger cybersecurity workforce

    NIST released a resource that will help U.S. employers more effectively identify, recruit, develop, and maintain cybersecurity talent. The draft NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework (NCWF) provides a common language to categorize and describe cybersecurity work to help organizations build a strong staff to protect their systems and data.

  • Understanding insurgency warfare

    A new book explores the history and details of 181 insurgencies since the end of the Second World War, providing lessons for those fighting insurgent campaigns today in such countries as Syria, Libya, and Iraq. The book finds that there has been a significant increase in the past decade in the number of insurgencies involving extremist Islamic groups. The book also finds that insurgent groups are most likely to lose when they perpetrate large-scale brutality against civilians and fail to secure outside support from great powers.

  • Why it’s not all about security as West beefs up military in Africa’s Sahel

    Over the past few weeks the United States and France have pledged considerable extra funds to strengthening their military presence in Africa’s Sahel region – a narrow, arid band of land stretching across the continent from west to east just south of the Sahara desert. This has been prompted by growing Western fears of destabilization. There has been concern that Islamist groups were establishing themselves in the vast spaces between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. But Western interest in the Sahel region is not merely about security. It has also been linked by some to the West’s desire to protect vital natural resources such as oil, gas, and uranium. One geographer and Africa specialist has called this a new scramble for Africa.

  • Some early 20th century L.A. earthquakes might have been man-made

    Some early twentieth century earthquakes in southern California might have been induced (man-made) by past practices that were used by the oil and gas industry. During the early decades of the oil boom, withdrawal of oil was not balanced by injection of fluids, in some cases leading to dramatic ground subsidence, and potentially perturbing the sub-surface stress field on nearby faults.

  • Russia has “cultivated” Trump, aiming to weaken Western alliance: Ex-spy

    A former Western intelligence official, whose career involved decades in conducting Russian counterintelligence operations, has handed the FBI a batch of memos in which he suggested that there was “an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” The retired spook consulted with Russian sources, and said that: “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting, and assisting Trump for at least five years. Aim, endorsed by Putin, has been to encourage splits and divisions in Western alliance.” The FBI asked to former intelligence official for all the information he had on Trump, and specifically asked the former spy how he had come by this information.