Are Apple devices really at risk? Here’s a quick reminder of why food company executives must be super-conscious about cyber-security. As you may recall, we’ve talked about “ransomware” before. Now there’s news that come April 7, your iPhones, iPads, and Macs may be at the mercy of a group calling itself the “Turkish Crime Family” — that is, unless Apple pays a ransom, according to Gregg Leffler, Linked In senior editor for software and technology. Motherboard broke the story earlier this week, noting that the group (which nobody has ever heard of until now) is  threatening to remotely wipe at least 200 million Apple devices unless the company pays ransom of $75,000-$100,000. It seems highly unlikely Apple has any intention of paying anything to this group, but how should you protect yourself, just in case? For a start, anyone who uses an Apple device might change his or her iCloud password to something unique, and then enable two-factor authentication. Read more HERE and HERE.

PERSONNEL SECURITY

A terrorist diaspora? FBI Director James Comey on Thursday warned that the ability of terrorists to use social media and the internet to inspire and enable individuals toward violence is a “lingering phenomenon,” underscoring the need for food company executives to be scrupulously careful about personnel security. Comey also repeated his concerns over a “terrorist diaspora” that he believes will occur once ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria is “crushed” by coalition forces. READ MORE

TERRORISM

Using insects as weapons of war: This season on the spy drama “The Americans,” the Cold War hinges on a few insects, notes an In Homeland Security article.  Just as the shelves in Soviet grocery stores are becoming barren, Russian agents Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) stumble onto a terrifying American plot. It looks like the United States is breeding an insect capable of either destroying Russia’s wheat supply or poisoning the wheat the U.S. exports to the Soviets. Either way, it would be a devastating blow to Elizabeth and Philip’s motherland, so the pair get to work thwarting lab experiments (and killing some innocent bystanders along the way). So how realistic is any of this? It’s hardly plucked from thin air, and the U.S. has been accused of using “entomological warfare” in the past. University of Wyoming professor Jeffrey Lockwood, who wrote a book about the subject, Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War, talks about the possibilities. READ MORE

Another terrorist attack, this one in Belgium: Belgian authorities tightened security Thursday in the port city of Antwerp after a Frenchman drove his car at high speed through a busy shopping area, forcing pedestrians to jump out of the way, the Associated Press reports. The similarity to other terrorist attacks involving vehicles points to the need for those who manage hotel and restaurant venues, where crowds of people gather, to be especially aware of security. French President Francois Hollande compared the incident to the attack in London that left three people dead Wednesday, saying the Frenchman was “trying to kill people or create a dramatic event.” READ MORE.

A lone lunatic, or a broader conspiracy? The Belgian attack so closely following the deadly attack in London also inevitably raises the question: Was the London attack a lone lunatic or part of a broader conspiracy? The Cipher Brief interviewed Nick Fishwick (former senior member of the British Foreign Office) and Mitch Silber (former director of analysis for the New York Police Department), about what Wednesday’s deadly terror attack in London, and what it could mean for UK counterterrorism efforts moving forward. The publication also spoke with spoke with Nigel Inkster, former director of operations and intelligence at MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, about the attack and how the UK is responding.  Read more HERE and HERE.

Senators urge famine effort: A bipartisan group of senators want Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to implement a “diplomatic surge” to help alleviate famine in several war-torn or terror-plagued African countries. They warned that 20 million people in four countries—Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen—are in danger of starvation. Diplomatic efforts to resolve that crisis will involve working governments struggling to restrain a terrorist threat or even riven by civil war. And the call for increased humanitarian aid could cut against State Department plans to lower foreign aid levels as part of budget cuts slated for the upcoming fiscal year. READ MORE

WATER SAFETY

Scale of water loss is ‘staggering’: Fresh water is vital for human survival and health, the production of food and energy, industrial activity, and the functioning of the entire global economy, as well as for the survival of other animals, plants, and natural ecosystems. Water scarcity, whatever its cause–natural catastrophes, pollution, poor water management, or theft and smuggling—can have grave consequences, according to an article from The Brookings Institute. Yet the scale of water loss through mismanagement and outright water theft is staggering. According to the World Bank, some 48.6 million cubic meters of drinkable water escape daily from official supply networks, enough to provide water for 200 million people. READ MORE.

ANIMAL HEALTH

Pesticides may be banned in Europe in hopes of protecting bees: The world’s most widely used insecticides would be banned from all fields across Europe under draft regulations from the European commission, seen by the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper. The documents are the first indication that the powerful commission wants a complete ban and cite “high acute risks to bees.” A ban could be in place this year if the proposals are approved by a majority of EU member states. Bees and other pollinators are vital for many food crops but have been declining for decades due to habitat loss, disease and pesticide use. The insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been in use for over 20 years and have been linked to serious harm in bees. READ MORE

Rebuilding will take years, not months, for Kansas ranchers: Kansas cattle rancher Jenny Giles-Betschart and her family have owned 30,000 acres in the southern part of the state since the 1940s, but earlier this month wildfires decimated most of that land. The fires ripped across the Plains states, killing grazing animals, incinerating grasslands and destroying homes and barns. Kansas was particularly hard hit. In Clark County alone, where Giles-Betschart lives, 400,000 acres were burned, according to the Kansas Farm Bureau. Rebuilding will take years, not months, and tens of millions of dollars to rebuild herds, fence and other infrastructure these ranchers rely on for income. READ MORE. 

Screw worm infestation ‘under control’: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says it will wind down its response against flesh-eating maggots that threaten small, endangered deer in a national wildlife refuge in the Florida Keys, according to an Associated Press article.  New World screwworm can eat livestock and pets alive, and once cost the U.S. livestock industry millions every year. There hadn’t been a U.S. infestation in over 30 years, until agriculture officials confirmed in September that screwworm was killing the dog-sized Key deer, whose range is limited to a national wildlife refuge. READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

Farmworkers should be on food safety front lines: Who better than the people in the front lines to recognize and call out the enemy? That’s the underlying strategy of an approach to food safety that relies on farmworkers to spot possible problems in growing fields and packing sheds, reports Food Safety News. Such problems include deer droppings in the field, manure drift from a nearby field, dirty packing boxes, equipment that hasn’t been cleaned well or often enough, and even the lack of adequate hand-washing facilities. READ MORE

New inter-agency food safety ‘strategic plan’: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have issued a new Strategic Plan for 2017-2021 as part of the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC). READ MORE

Perdue says Brazilian embargo would be “over-reaction”: During his confirmation hearing for the post of U.S. secretary of agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said he thinks it would be an over-reaction for USDA to embargo Brazilian beef because of that country’s federal investigation of meat inspectors being bribed to overlook standards for exported meat, reports Food Safety NewsREAD MORE

RECALLS

Nearly 1 million pounds of breaded chicken products recalled: As if we need another reminder about the staggering cost of food contamination—and the damage to a brand’s name—we’re seeing an Oklahoma company recalling nearly a million pounds of its product. OK Foods, Inc., an Oklahoma City, Okla., establishment, is has announced the recall of some 933,272 pounds of breaded chicken products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically metal, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced. The recall was the result of five consumer complaints about “metal objects” found in the chicken producer’s “ready-to-eat” chicken products. READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

A new nutritional snack bar will boost recruits’ health: The Military Nutrition Division at the U.S. Army’s Research Institute of Environmental Medicine has unveiled a new nutritional snack bar for recruits to consume before bedtime while at basic combat training. Military health experts have found that recruits often arrive to basic with poor vitamin D status, making their bones more vulnerable to fracture and injury, according to the Military Health System. This subsequently leads to delays in training and increased dropout rates. Stress fractures can easily occur during basic due to strenuous tasks that the body is unaccustomed to. Wearing boots for long marches, running frequently and carrying heavy loads are just some of the activities that can increase the likelihood of stress fractures. READ MORE

A new ‘ag-gag’ law in Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson Thursday signed Arkansas House Bill 1665, adding a civil cause of action to the state’s code that permits individuals to sue over the unauthorized access to non-public areas of commercial property, reports Food Safety News. Although not a criminal statute, Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy for Animals, calls the measure an “ag-gag” law. HB 1665 easily earned approval from the Arkansas Legislature where the state’s large poultry industry is always a major concern. Other states with large agricultural animal operations have already approved ag-gag laws. READ MORE

Syrian tragedy is destroying families: The tragedy of the Syrian conflict extends beyond its nearly 500,000 deaths, two million injured, and the forced displacement of half its population, says The Brookings Institute. The violence and social and cultural forces unleashed by the war have torn families apart, which will likely have a long lasting impact on Syria, with divorce, polygamy, and child marriages, especially among refugees, all increasing. This increase has been accompanied by instability and health and psychological consequences. READ MORE