• Insect AlliesInsect Allies: Friend or foe?

    In 2016 DARPA launched the Insect Allies project, budgeting $45 million over four years to transform agricultural pests into vectors that can transfer protective genes into plants within one growing season. Scientists are concerned that such technology might be used for nefarious purposes. In a recent Science article, the scientists note the profound implications of releasing a horizontal environmental genetic alteration agent – implications that touch on regulatory, economic, biological, security, and societal issues.

  • Molecular alliesDiscovering new molecules for military applications

    The efficient discovery and production of new molecules is essential for a range of military capabilities—from developing safe chemical warfare agent simulants and medicines to counter emerging threats, to coatings, dyes, and specialty fuels for advanced performance. Current approaches to develop molecules for specific applications, however, are intuition-driven, mired in slow iterative design and test cycles, and ultimately limited by the specific molecular expertise of the chemist who has to test each candidate molecule by hand. DARPA’s Accelerated Molecular Discovery (AMD) program aims “to speed the time to design, validate, and optimize new molecules with defined properties from several years to a few months, or even several weeks,” DARPA says.

  • Nuclear weaponsFrance sued for “crimes against humanity” South Pacific nuclear tests

    French Polynesia is taking France to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for carrying out nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia, a Polynesian opposition leader said on Tuesday. France carried out 193 nuclear weapons tests on islands in the archipelago between 1960 and 1996 until French President Jacques Chirac ended nuclear testing.

  • CybersecurityNumbers, trends in health care data breaches nationwide, 2010-2017

    Health plans – entities that cover the costs of medical care – accounted for the greatest number of patient records breached over the past seven years, according to an analysis of U.S. health care data. The report examined changes in data breaches during a period when electronic health records were being widely adopted across the country. While the largest number of data breaches took place at heath care providers – hospitals, physician offices, and similar entities – breaches involving the greatest number of patient records took place at health plans.

  • Conspiracy theorySomething’s going on here: Building a comprehensive profile of conspiracy thinkers

    By Joshua Hart

    By and large, people gravitate toward conspiracy theories that seem to affirm or validate their political views. Republicans are vastly more likely than Democrats to believe the Obama “birther” theory or that climate change is a hoax. Democrats are more likely to believe that Trump’s campaign “colluded” with the Russians. But some people are habitual conspiracists who entertain a variety of generic conspiracy theories.

  • Mass shootingsAnxiety surrounding mass shootings closes ideological divides -- briefly

    People who feel anxious surrounding mass shootings tend to abandon their political ideology on typically divided issues, according to a study. Yet policymakers — especially those seeking gun law reforms trying to stem the number of mass shootings — in recent years have largely failed to capitalize on attitudes surrounding this type of anxiety.

  • SuperbugsNew FDA plan focuses on antibiotic development, stewardship

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week announced a multipronged strategy to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) that emphasizes new measures to spur development of antibiotics and alternative therapies, promote antibiotic stewardship in animal health, advance antibiotic resistance surveillance, and enhance regulatory science.

  • The Russia connectionU.K. charges Russians in novichok case, May says “not a rogue operation”

    British prosecutors have announced charges against two Russian men they believe poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a deadly nerve agent, and Prime Minister Theresa May says the government has concluded the suspects were officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency.

  • GunsGun owners are more politically active: study

    American gun owners in recent years have exhibited higher levels of political participation, not only in voting but in donating money to candidates and contacting elected officials, according to a new study. “Part of the reason majority opinions on gun control legislation aren’t turning into policy is that gun owners are a very strong political group who hold a lot of weight and hold a lot of influence despite being a minority in American politics,” said one researcher.

  • Global healthRecommendations for U.S. global health security strategy

    Investments in global health security programs at the federal level directly benefit U.S. national security and the economy by helping to prevent the cross-border spread of infectious disease outbreaks in other countries.

  • Medical records securityUnsecured, obsolete medical record systems and medical devices risk patient lives

    A team of physicians and computer scientists has shown that it is easy to modify medical test results remotely by attacking the connection between hospital laboratory devices and medical record systems. These types of attacks might be more likely used against high-profile targets, such as heads of state and celebrities, than against the general public. But they could also be used by a nation-state to cripple the United States’ medical infrastructure.

  • Truth decayBots, Russian trolls influenced vaccine discussion on Twitter

    Social media bots and Russian trolls promoted discord and spread false information about vaccines on Twitter, according to new research. Using tactics similar to those at work during the 2016 United States presidential election, these Twitter accounts entered into vaccine debates months before election season was underway.

  • Climate threats & nuclear plantsWhat are coastal nuclear power plants doing to address climate threats?

    By John Vidal

    Flooding can be catastrophic to a nuclear power plant because it can knock out its electrical systems, disabling its cooling mechanisms and leading to overheating and possible meltdown and a dangerous release of radioactivity. At least 100 U.S., European and Asian nuclear power stations built just a few meters above sea level could be threatened by serious flooding caused by accelerating sea-level rise and more frequent storm surges. More than 20 flooding incidents have been recorded at U.S. nuclear plants since the early 1980s. A number of scientific papers published in 2018 suggest that climate change will impact coastal nuclear plants earlier and harder than the industry, governments, or regulatory bodies have expected, and that the safety standards set by national nuclear regulators and the IAEA are out of date and take insufficient account of the effects of climate change on nuclear power.

  • Disaster planningDisaster planning saves lives

    There are a lot of scary threats in the world—extreme weather, terrorist attacks, deadly infectious diseases, mass shootings—but if health care organizations plan ahead for such disasters, lives can be saved. The first step for health care organizations preparing for emergencies is to accurately assess the kinds of hazards they may face, such as flooding, power outages, or violence, says an expert.

  • SuperbugsNew FDA initiative to reduce overuse of antibiotics in animals met with skepticism

    Each year more than 2 million Americans suffer infections from bacteria that cannot be treated by one or more antibiotics—and at least 23,000 die. Approximately 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in food-producing animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that the agency will soon be implementing a 5-year blueprint to advance antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. The FDA wants to further its efforts to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs and combat the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. Critics charge the new FDA’s initiative is too timid.