• What would it take to end California’s drought?

    The excitement about a potentially rain-bearing El Niño is building, and hopes for a swift end to California’s ongoing drought are multiplying. At the same time, many of us who have worked extensively on water issues in the state fear the momentum and progress made on much-needed water reforms will be lost. This will be unfortunate, because California’s current water situation offers an invitation to expand how we think about water and drought conditions. A more nuanced perspective about what drought means and our water needs can help continue the momentum on the shifts, such as conservation measures and groundwater management, needed to deal with what is certainly an uncertain future.

  • Case closed: French judges end Yasser Arafat murder-by-radioactive-poisoning inquiry

    French judges who were investigating charges by the Palestinian Authority and the widow of Yasser Arafat that he was murdered by being poisoned with radioactive material, have closed the case without bringing any charges. Arafat died in November 2004, aged 75, in Percy military hospital near Paris after developing stomach pains and exhibiting symptoms of a more general deterioration while living under Israeli siege at his partially destroyed headquarters in Ramallah. In 2012 a team of Swiss scientists found elevated levels of polonium-210 and lead-210 in tissue samples taken from his exhumed body, but French and Russian scientists who examined the same tissue samples did not find abnormal radiation levels and dismissed the Swiss findings as resulting from methodological errors.

  • Obama wins: Iran deal opponents cannot override Presidential veto

    The Obama administration has won a major victory yesterday (Wednesday) when Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced she would support the nuclear agreement reached by the P5+1 and Iran. She is the 34th Democrat supporting the accord, thus giving the administration enough votes to sustain a presidential veto of a Senate vote of disapproval. It takes sixty-seven senators to override a presidential veto, but with thirty-four Democrats now supporting the accord, opponents of the agreement can no longer reach the required veto-overriding number. It is also not clear that there will be a vote of disapproval in the Senate. To have a vote of disapproval brought the floor, the fifty-four Senate Republicans must persuade six Democrats to support cloture, that is, a motion to bring debate to an end so a vote can take place. It requires sixty senators to vote to end debate and bring a vote to the floor, and so far only two Democrats – Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey – have announced their opposition to the agreement, leaving opponents of the accord four votes short of a successful cloture motion. If no such vote takes place, there would be no need for a presidential veto.

  • Lost generation: Wars prevent 13m children in Middle East, north Africa from going to school

    The UN children’s fund, in a report issued earlier today (Thursday) said that conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa have been preventing more than thirteen million children from attending school, undermining their hopes for a better future. “We’re on the verge of losing an entire generation of children in the Middle East and North Africa,” UNICEF regional director said.

  • Past strategies for managing droughts are obsolete in a hotter, more densely populated world

    California’s current extreme drought must be a lesson for managing water in a warmer, more densely populated world, experts say. The Golden State has a long history of successfully managing droughts, but strategies from the past century are now obsolete, they assert. The current drought, which began in 2012, is a harbinger of what is to come. Engineering our way around periodic water shortages will no longer work in a hotter, drier world with ceaseless human demands on water supplies. Our ever-increasing thirst for water coupled with poor management, aging infrastructure and worsening climate change is a recipe not just for wells run dry, but for ravaged forests, extinct wildlife, and more droughts. Targeted research and public policies that move beyond a crisis response mentality are critically needed, the experts conclude.

  • Iran nuclear deal close to clearing last hurdle as more Senate Democrats announce support

    The nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran is about to clear the last political obstacle to its implementation after two more Senate Democrats announced they would support the deal. Their support means that the Obama administration is just one senator short of having the required 34 votes in the Senate to sustain a presidential veto, which will follow the rejection of the deal by the Republican majority in the chamber. The president may yet not need to use the veto at all. With the growing number of Democrats coming out to support the Iran deal, there is a possibility that the Republican majority in the Senate – at fifty-four Senators — may fall short of even passing a vote of disapproval: Sixty senators would be required bring debate to a close and pass the motion of disapproval, meaning that if forty-one Democrats come out in support of the deal, the president will not have to use the veto at all.

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  • New NGA global map advances geophysics R&D, nuclear nonproliferation

    A team of researchers led by scientists at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) published a new map 1 September which characterizes the Earth’s radioactivity and offers new and potential future applications for basic science research and nonproliferation efforts.

  • More minorities join the sovereign citizen movement

    The sovereign citizen movement, the roots of which lie in white separatism and anti-Semitism, now welcomes non-white adherents. Especially susceptible to recruitment efforts by the movement are African Americans – called “Moorish Americans” or “Moorish Natives” by movement members – from poor and neglected neighborhoods.“They are much more reflective of the demographics of society today,” a former FBI case manager notes.

  • Terrorist attacks involving firearms cause more fatalities than attacks using explosives

    New background report examines use of firearms in terrorist attacks. The report finds that even though the use of explosives has the potential to cause exceptionally high numbers of casualties, in general, attacks involving firearms were more likely to be lethal.

  • Members of right-wing militia go to jail for plotting attacks on U.S. infrastructure

    Three members of a right-wing militia have been sentenced to twelve years in prison for conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in attacks against federal government agencies. The defendants planned to attack critical infrastructure in Georgia while motivating militia groups in other states to rise up and join them in removing government officials who they believed had exceeded their Constitutional power. The militia members planned on starting a revolution against the federal government by conducting an attack aimed at the infrastructure supporting the TSA, DHS, and FEMA.

  • Chad executes 10 Boko Haram members

    Chad said it has executed ten members of Boko Haram by firing squad, marking the first use of the death penalty since 2003. The ten men were sentenced to death on Friday after a court convicted them of crimes which included murder and the use of explosives. Chad officials said that  one of those executed was Bahna Fanaye, alias Mahamat Moustapha, described by the Chadian officials as a leader of the Nigeria-based group.

  • Questions raised about Provisional IRA’s possible return to its violent ways

    It has been assumed that Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) has “gone away,” in the words of Sinn Féin’s leader Gerry Adams. In the wake of the 13 August killing in Belfast of a former IRA operative, police north of south of the border have launched an investigation into whether PIRA is still engaged in violence. Separately, a former member of PIRA, who is now a historian working in theBoston College Belfast Project, has charged that hackers affiliated with Sinn Féin have hacked his and his wife’s communication and leaked some of it to the press. U.S. courts allowed the Northern Ireland police access to portions of the archive, leading to arrests of several prominent Belfast Republicans.

  • Subjecting countries to “targeted punishments” could tackle climate change

    Targeted punishments could provide a path to international climate change cooperation, new research in game theory has found. The research suggests that in situations such as climate change, in which everyone would be better off if everyone cooperated but it may not be individually advantageous to do so, the use of a strategy called “targeted punishment” could help shift society toward global cooperation.

  • Palestinians to pay $10M to terror victims while appealing $218.5M verdict

    The Palestinian Authority and the PLO, found liable in a lawsuit over Americans killed in terrorist attacks, must pay $10 million in cash and an additional $1 million monthly payment while the case is on appeal, a U.S. judge ruled on Monday. A jury awarded $218.5 million in damages earlier this year in a lawsuit brought by victims and survivors of bombings and shootings by Palestinian terrorists in Israel from 2002 to 2004. The damages were automatically tripled, to $655.50 million, by the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.

  • Thwarted train attack in France highlights U.S. rail vulnerability

    Airports are protected by several layers of security, but railroad stations have minimal, if any, protective measures, and there are no security checks through which those who take the train must pass. The attempted attack on the high-speed train from Brussels to Paris, an attack foiled by the quick courageous action of three Americans and Briton, only highlights the vulnerability to attack of U.S. rail. Security experts say, however, that trains remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks. A recent study, which analyzed terrorist attacks over a 30-year period from 1982 to 2011, found that terrorists have shifted their focus in recent years away from attacking airlines to attacking subway and rail systems. The deadliest attacks in the decade 2002-2011 were against subway and commuter rail systems.