Our picksHarsh Climate Reality: U.S. Not Ready | Feds’ Facial Recognition Systems | Islamists Struggling for Recruits, and more

Published 3 September 2021

·  Overlapping Disasters Show Harsh Climate Reality: The U.S. Is Not Ready

·  The Storm Warnings Were Dire. Why Couldn’t the City Be Protected?

·  Hurricane Ida: 2 Reasons for Its Record-Shattering Rainfall in NYC and the Northeast Long After the Winds Weakened

·  Extreme Heat: The Economic and Social Consequences for the United States

·  Africa Has Quietly Become the Epicenter of the Islamist Threat

·  Al-Qaida, Islamic State Group Struggle for Recruits

·  Rejecting Covid Inquiry, China Peddles Conspiracy Theories Blaming the U.S.

·  Cyber Command Alerts U.S. Firms of “Ongoing” Hacks Targeting Atlassian Enterprise Software

·  Married Kremlin Spies, a Shadowy Mission to Moscow and Unrest in Catalonia

·  Feds Are Increasing Use of Facial Recognition Systems – Despite Calls for a Moratorium

Overlapping Disasters Show Harsh Climate Reality: The U.S. Is Not Ready  (Christopher Flavelle, Anne Barnard, Brad Plumer and Michael Kimmelman, New York Times)
Wildfires, flash floods and heat waves across the country show the limits of adapting to climate change. Experts say it will only get worse.

The Storm Warnings Were Dire. Why Couldn’t the City Be Protected?  (Jesse McKinley, Dana Rubinstein and Jeffery C. Mays, New York Times)
New York City and state officials knew heavy rains were coming, but their preparations couldn’t save the city from death and destruction.

Hurricane Ida: 2 Reasons for Its Record-Shattering Rainfall in NYC and the Northeast Long After the Winds Weakened  (Russ Schumacher, The Conversation)
Two major factors likely contributed to Hurricane Ida’s extended extreme rainfall. First, Ida’s tropical moisture interacted with developing warm and cold fronts. Second, evidence is mounting that, as the climate warms, the amount of precipitation from heavy rainstorms is increasing, especially in the central and eastern U.S.

Extreme Heat: The Economic and Social Consequences for the United States  (Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht – Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center)
With climate change expected to make periods of extreme heat more frequent, widespread, and severe in the coming decades, Extreme Heat: The Economic and Social Consequences for the United States—a new report produced by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center with analysis conducted by Vivid Economics—quantifies the impacts of heat under current and future conditions. 

Africa Has Quietly Become the Epicenter of the Islamist Threat  (Financial Times)
Just as Kabul was about to fall this month, Iyad ag Ghaly, the grizzled Malian leader of al-Qaeda affiliate Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, took to the airwaves. Congratulating the Taliban on the imminent expulsion of foreign infidels, he foresaw victory too in the Sahel, a vast stretch of semi-arid land that fringes the Sahara desert. Here, a mishmash of armed groups loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State have carried out increasingly frequent and deadly attacks on military and civilian targets in an expanding arc from Mali to Burkina Faso and Niger. Other Islamist groups, including Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province, are active in Nigeria and Chad. Ag Ghaly, who in 2012 helped impose sharia law in the ancient city of Timbuktu after militants took over a France-sized slab of northern Mali, celebrated President Emmanuel Macron’s decision this July to halve its troop presence in the region. “We are winning,” he said. Thankfully, France’s drawdown is not yet a US-style surrender. Its version of mission creep began in 2013 when France’s Operation Serval was instrumental in ending Islamist control of northern Mali. Paris’s changing strategy stems from a sensible verdict that the current one is not working.

Al-Qaida, Islamic State Group Struggle for Recruits  (Charles Kurzman, The Conversation)
As strange as it may sound, revolutionary Islamist groups suffer from recruitment problems as any other organization does. My research on Islamist terrorism has found that al-Qaida and its rival offshoot, the Islamic State group, have long had chronic difficulties replenishing their ranks.

Rejecting Covid Inquiry, China Peddles Conspiracy Theories Blaming the U.S.  (Austin Ramzy and Amy Chang Chien, New York Times)
A new wave of disinformation follows President Biden’s order for the United States to investigate the origin of the pandemic, including the possibility of a lab leak in Wuhan.

Cyber Command Alerts U.S. Firms of “Ongoing” Hacks Targeting Atlassian Enterprise Software  (Jeff Stone, Cyberscop)
U.S. Cyber Command is warning American organizations that hackers are exploiting software flaws in a popular project management tool, an indication that attackers could be preparing for a larger campaign that creates headaches throughout the private sector.
Cyber Command — the Defense Department’s cyber unit — said in a tweet Friday that “mass exploitation” of the issue “is ongoing and expected to accelerate.” The issue exists in Atlassian Confluence, an enterprise application marketed as a means of enabling remote work in corporate environments. Atlassian, an Australian corporation, warned clients on Aug. 25 to update their systems to the latest version of Confluence.

Married Kremlin Spies, a Shadowy Mission to Moscow and Unrest in Catalonia  (Michael Schwirtz and José Bautista, New York Times)
Intelligence files suggest an aide to a top Catalan separatist sought help from Russia in the struggle to break with Spain. A fierce new protest group emerged shortly afterward.

Feds Are Increasing Use of Facial Recognition Systems – Despite Calls for a Moratorium  (James Hendler, The Conversation)
Despite growing opposition, the U.S. government is on track to increase its use of controversial facial recognition technology.
Facial recognition systems are still in an early stage of maturity, and there is much that researchers, government and industry don’t understand about them. Until facial recognition technologies are better understood, their use in consequential applications should be halted until they can be properly regulated.

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