State / Local

  • EbolaFirst New York Ebola case confirmed

    Dr. Craig Spencer, who had been working with Doctors without Borders in Guinea and treating Ebola patients before returning to New York City on 14 October, was taken to Bellevue Hospital yesterday (Thursday) and placed in strict isolation. Tests later determined that he had contracted the Ebola virus. Spencer is the first New Yorker diagnosed with Ebola. As if in anticipation of a case like Dr. Spencer’s, more than 5,000 healthcare workers in New York participated in a three-hour session earlier this week to prepare for Ebola should an infected person arrive in the New York City region.

  • Coastal infrastructureSea level rise or not, coastal development in south Florida is booming

    Miami and Miami Beach are both considered ground zero for the challenges posed by climate change, as both cities will experience considerable sea level rise by mid-century. Constant flooding will become the norm as high tides reach shores, posing a threat to property and human life. As discouraging as the future may seem for South Florida, residents, real estate investors, and companies are increasing their investments in the area.

  • EbolaStates’ waste disposal laws limit hospitals’ Ebola-related disposal options

    As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The CDC recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste.

  • SurveillanceGrowing scrutiny of police use of Stingray surveillance technology

    IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), aka Stingray, is a surveillance technology which simulates cell phone towers in order to intercept mobile phone calls and text messages. Privacy advocates have scrutinized the use of Stingrays in U.S. cities because, when the device tracks a suspect’s cell phone, it also gathers information about the phones of bystanders within the target range. Additionally, police use Stingrays without properly identifying the technology when requesting search warrants has raised concerns.

  • Real IDMost states are complying with Real ID, but a few lag behind

    Forty U.S. states and some territories have adopted the Real ID Actrequirements for state driver’s licenses and identification cards, mandated by the federal government. Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington are still considered noncompliant as of October 2014. DHS announced a phased enforcement of the Real ID Act in 2013, and residents of non-complying states are already facing restrictions – such as having to present a passport or birth certificate in order to enter restricted areas in federal facilities or nuclear power plants. These restrictions will only tighten between now and January 2016.

  • Infrastructure protectionBay Area’s infrastructure more resilient, but a major tremor would paralyze region’s economy

    Twenty-five years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area suffered the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed sixty-three people, injured 3,700, destroyed 366 businesses and 11,000 homes, and caused $6 billion in property damage. Since then, bridges and roads have been rebuilt to withstand more powerful quakes, but seismic safety experts say more could be done to protect property and human life. A major earthquake is not likely completely to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge or other major infrastructure developments, but the Bay Area’s $535 billion a year economy will come to a halt for months and even years due to weakened critical infrastructure.

  • ResilienceSome states are better prepared than others for climate change challenges

    In recent years, a number of states have started taking action to prepare their communities for climate change. Many have even developed specific adaptation plans to guide their work. Until now, though, no one has been able to define how much progress states are actually making in implementing those plans. The Georgetown Climate Center’s (GCC) online tool, the State Adaptation Progress Tracker, changes that. A GCC release says that now, anyone will be able to quickly determine how much progress their state is making and decision-makers will be able to learn from innovative examples of actions other states are taking.

  • DisastersOpen data sources can help localities prepare for disasters

    States and local governments must improve their use of open-data sources to prepare for disasters, according to a trio of emergency management experts from academia, government, and the private sector. Experts agreed that public data reveals an increasing need for infrastructure upgrades in U.S. cities, but local governments tend to adopt short-term measures over long-term protections.

  • CybersecurityState, local governments aim to strengthen cybersecurity staff despite shrinking budgets

    Due to increased cyberattacks on state and local government servers, many leaders are looking to strengthen the cybersecurity staff on their payrolls. Lower levels of government are also worried about cybercrime due to the large amounts of personal and confidential data that they store. Demand for cybersecurity experts is more than double the workplace demand for IT specialists.

  • ImmigrationMore law enforcement agencies refuse to hold undocumented inmates for ICE

    Recent court rulings have emboldened roughly 225 law enforcement agencies across the country to refuse requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) officials to hold undocumented inmates past their release dates so federal authorities can have time to deport them. Until recently, inmates suspected of being in the country illegally were held for an additional forty-eight hours until ICE agents arrived. Some municipalities began limiting the number of holds a few years ago, but several counties and cities have begun to ignore the requests all together after recent court rulings confirmed that the immigration holds are not mandatory.

  • DroughtCalifornia agriculture faces greatest water loss ever seen

    California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and nearly a quarter of the nation’s milk and cream. Across the nation, consumers regularly buy several crops grown almost entirely in California, including tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, grapes, olives, and figs. Researchers show that California agriculture is weathering its worst drought in decades due to groundwater reserves, but the nation’s produce basket may come up dry in the future if it continues to treat those reserves like an unlimited savings account.

  • DroughtCalifornia crippling drought linked to climate change: Scientists

    The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California’s crippling drought are far more likely to occur under today’s global warming conditions than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases. Researchers used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

  • DisastersSouth Carolina reflects on Hurricane Hugo anniversary

    The state of South Caroline has just eyed the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hurricane Hugo – the Category 4 storm that hit the coast on 21 September 1989 with sustained maximum winds of 138 mph. Many in the state still honor that event, and live with the memory of the severe coastal damage due to drastic storm surges and the forty-nine lives lost during the disaster. The storm also left 60,000 people homeless, with 270,000 temporarily unemployed and 54,000 residents seeking monetary assistance. Extending far beyond that were many others who did not have power for two weeks or longer.

  • TerrorismNYC mayor de Blasio facing criticism for curbing counterterrorism programs

    New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is facing backlash over his decision to curb several counterterrorism programs introduced by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Among other things, de Blasio has restricted the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program; approved issuing municipal IDs of standards lower than those mandated by the federal government’s RealID program; is refusing to reinstate a special surveillance program which targeted Muslim communities in New York; and has also replaced the highly regarded deputy police commissioner for intelligence.

  • PreparednessThe State of New York launches disaster preparedness initiatives

    The state of New York is implementing a proactive strategy to deal with the threat of terrorism and natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy. Local municipalities have been granted state support for emergency preparedness projects, and the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services(DHSES), led by commissioner Jerome Hauer, has expanded its regional footprint from five planning/response regions to ten. “Mother Nature has become much more aggressive, so we too must adopt a similar posture to ensure we are ready to respond effectively when the next disaster strikes, Hauer says.