March 11, 2016 | 0 comments

Technologists like Elon Musk and Bill Gates worry that robots may one day threaten to extinguish the human race, but there is another threat more subtle and immediate. According to a recent study, people are a bit naïve when it comes to trusting robots. Research presented March 9 by the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that during an emergency, test subjects were prone to following a robot’s instructions — even after the robot had proven itself unreliable. The research was released at the 2016 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction in Christchurch, New Zealand. The experiment tested the reactions of 42 volunteers, mostly college students, who were not told the nature of the research project in which they were participating. Groups of volunteers were asked to follow a shop-vac-sized robot emblazoned with the words “EMERGENCY GUIDE ROBOT.” A hidden researcher remotely controlled the robot, sometimes leading the subjects in a circle twice before reaching the conference room, sometimes leading subjects to the wrong room, or sometimes turning the robot off before they reached their destination, at which point the subjects were informed that the robot had broken down. More at

March 8, 2016 | 0 comments

Could it be lights out for America? That’s something that people are starting to worry about, and these worries aren’t coming solely from the usual crowd of survivalists and preppers. Shut down the computers that run the power plants and distribution systems and you shut down America. That’s looking more possible, lately. More at

March 8, 2016 | 0 comments

It has been five years since the emergency sirens sounded at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant following the massive 2011 earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami. The partial meltdown of three reactors caused approximately 170,000 refugees to be displaced from their homes, and radiation releases and public outcry forced the Japanese government to temporarily shut down all of their nuclear power plants. On the fifth anniversary of the partial meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, Stanford’s Rodney Ewing says we should rethink our language, reassess natural disaster risks, and appreciate the links between nuclear energy and renewables. More at

March 7, 2016 | 0 comments

When the 2010 earthquake in Haiti proved too much for the United Nations’ humanitarian aid workers, the U.S. government took over, mounting a relief operation that was ultimately deemed fairly successful. But six years after that response, the federal government has yet to fully institutionalize the lessons it gleaned, or fund the capabilities that will allow it to handle the next mega disaster. As the scale of the devastation in Haiti came to light, the U.S. augmented its civil relief agencies with military forces. That operation — and the ones that followed in Nepal, the Philippines, West Africa, and Japan — taught the civilians that American troops could be of enormous use in such work. “There’s been quite a change over the last decade with respect to accepting the military’s role in responding to large-scale disasters,” said Mark Bartolini, a former head of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, or OFDA. The groups also recognized the need to develop better, formal ways of working together, and so formalized the civil-military relationship in a June 2015 policy update.

“We have further elaborated a system for that structural relationship between USAID and DOD as the lead agency for responding to international disasters,” said Beth Cole, a former head of USAID’s Office of Civil-Military Cooperation. USAID officials are now tasked to different combatant commands, and can quickly respond in a crisis. Civilians and military officials also take part in more...

March 4, 2016 | 0 comments

The European Commission is set to adopt today (2 March) a new plan aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to refugees inside the European Union, according to a draft proposal seen by EurActiv Greece. The Commission will propose a regulation on the provision of emergency aid within the EU’s borders, breaking with normal rules, which restrict humanitarian aid to overseas countries only. The lack of cooperation among member states has prompted the executive to find creative ways of helping EU countries that are being severely hit by the refugee crisis. “For the first time we mobilise resources, legislation and money that will enable Europe to act and within the EU, not only in crises in the Third World,” Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told a European Parliament gathering on 1 March :

The document obtained by EurActiv says it is necessary to develop an instrument with “a dedicated budget that allows the EU to provide financial support to humanitarian partners capable of rapidly implementing emergency actions in support of overwhelmed member states”. “The measures contained in the proposed regulation will aim to address the exceptional humanitarian challenges that have emerged from the ongoing migratory situation,” it reads.

Focus on Western Balkans...