• In COVID’s Shadow, Global Terrorism Goes Quiet. But We Have Seen This Before, and Should Be Wary

    Have we flattened the curve of global terrorism? In our COVID-19-obsessed news cycle, stories about terrorism and terrorist attacks have largely disappeared. But as is the case with epidemics, terrorism works as a phenomenon that depends on social contact and exchange, and expands rapidly in an opportunistic fashion when defenses are lowered. In fact, we have contributed, through military campaigns, to weakening the body politic of host countries in which groups like al-Qaeda, IS and other violent extremist groups have a parasitic presence. We now need to face the inconvenient truth that toxic identity politics and the tribal dynamics of hate have infected Western democracies. Limiting the scope for terrorist attacks is difficult. Eliminating the viral spread of hateful extremism is much harder, but ultimately even more important.

  • COVID-19–Related Infodemic Has Consequences for Public Health

    Infodemic is “an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” A new study of COVID-19-related infodemic on social media analyzed thousands of COVID-19-related postings, finding that 82 percent of them were false.  

  • Cost of Excluding Undocumented Immigrants from Stimulus Funds: $10 billion in Economic Activity

    A new study found that the exclusion of undocumented residents and their families from the COVID-19 pandemic-related $1,200 stimulus payments given to taxpayers resulted in a loss of $10 billion in potential economic output. It also cost 82,000 jobs nationally and 17,000 jobs in California, the research found.

  • How Do We Know Whether a Virus Is Bioengineered?

    Since the onset of the pandemic, theories – or, rather, conspiracy theories – and no-evidence assertions argued that the coronavirus was intentionally engineered by Chinese scientists as a potential bioweapon, despite the consensus of scientists and intelligence experts that the virus’s genetics indicate that it is most likely a zoonotic pathogen. The scientists relied on a Finding Engineering-Linked Indicators (FELIX) analysis to reach their conclusion, but there are other detection tools – trouble is, these other tools may be used to engineer viruses for bioattacks.

  • The Impact of COVID-19 on Terrorism

    While government leaders are focused on fighting COVID-19, the threat of terrorism has not gone away. In fact, homeland security experts have warned that violent extremists may seek to take advantage of the fear and disruption around the pandemic to further their agenda and recruit new members.

  • Overhauling the Circulatory System of the American West

    It might be tempting to think of cowboys and cattle drives, but the real story of the American West can be summed up in one word: water. While the costs might be daunting, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has teamed up with the Oregon-based Farmers Conservation Alliance to radically reimagine the role of irrigation systems in the West.

  • Let’s Not Forget the Important Lessons the Coronavirus Taught Us about Supply Chains

    Resilience is priceless when you really need it. It turns out our economic systems are more fragile than we thought. As locations across the world implemented “shelter-in-place” orders in an effort to flatten the coronavirus contagion curve last spring, we got a real-time lesson in how intertwined our transportation and distribution systems are. It was staggering to see how efforts to curb the human toll of a pandemic rippled across every sector and created incalculable emotional and social impacts.

  • Poison: Chasing the Antidote

    While targeted chemical attacks on civilians tend to make headlines, the most common poisoning reports in the United States are from accidental exposure to household chemicals such as insect sprays, cleaning solutions or improperly washed fruit or vegetables. In any case, the remedy is a fast-acting, poison-chasing drug compound, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory says it is on the forefront developing a new generation of life-saving antidotes.

  • Election Flexibility Needed to Address Pandemic Safety Concerns

    The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a severe threat to state election plans in 2020. To conduct an election during the COVID-19 pandemic, states need registration and voting options that minimize direct personal contact and that reduce crowds and common access to high-touch surfaces.

  • Nuclear Threats Are Increasing – Here’s How the U.S. Should Prepare for a Nuclear Event

    On the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some may like to think the threat from nuclear weapons has receded. But there are clear signs of a growing nuclear arms race and that the U.S. is not very well-prepared for nuclear and radiological events. Despite the gloomy prospects of health outcomes of any large-scale nuclear event common in the minds of many, there are a number of concrete steps the U.S. and other countries can take to prepare. It’s our obligation to respond.

  • Preparing to Clean Up Following an Anthrax Attack

    The microorganism that causes anthrax, the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, has infected people and animals since ancient times. Anthrax is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack, because the anthrax bacteria exist in the natural environment, can be easily disguised in powders, sprays, food or water, and have been previously used as a biological warfare agent.

  • Google Searches During Pandemic: Hints of Future Increase in Suicide

    U.S. Google searches for information about financial difficulties and disaster relief increased sharply in March and April compared with pre-pandemic times, while Googling related to suicide decreased. Because previous research has shown that financial distress is strongly linked to suicide mortality, the researchers fear that the increase may predict a future increase in deaths from suicide.

  • COVID-19: Millions Face Severe Food Insecurity in Latin America, Caribbean

    The socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean could potentially leave around 14 million vulnerable people in severe food insecurity this year, warranting urgent attention to save lives, according to projections by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The estimate suggests that an additional 10 million people could be pushed into poverty and hunger in 11 countries in the region, including the small island developing states in the Caribbean.

  • Face Masks’ Effect on Face Recognition Software

    Now that so many of us are covering our faces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, how well do face recognition algorithms identify people wearing masks? The answer, according to a preliminary NIST study), is with great difficulty. Algorithms created before the pandemic generally perform less accurately with digitally masked faces.

  • Social Media Users More Likely to Believe False COVID-19 Information

    People who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19. Those that consume more traditional news media have fewer misperceptions and are more likely to follow public health recommendations like social distancing.