baby eats cereal from a spoon held by mother

Rice absorbs arsenic from soil and water: Infant rice cereals are popular with parents because they are affordable, easy to digest, and unlikely to cause allergic reactions. Infants typically begin eating cereals when they are between four and six months old. But, rice absorbs more arsenic from soil and water than other grains used for infant cereals; about 10 times more. Consequently, the level of arsenic in infant rice cereals is an ongoing concern among researchers and some public health advocates. READ MORE

TERRORISM

Terrorists constructing laptop bombs to use on planes: As Americans finalize their holiday travel plans, terrorists overseas are busy constructing sophisticated laptop bombs that can be smuggled onto planes. An attack took place in Somalia in February of last year, and CCTV footage shows two men going into the airport from the tarmac. One is carrying a laptop. At one point, he slips the rigged computer to the bomber in the coffee shop.  The man was the head of Mogadishu’s airport security at the time. READ MORE

Chronicler of ISIS ‘killing machine’ goes public: The historian carried secrets too heavy for one man to bear. He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic State group, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul. He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city.

BIODEFENSE

Biosecurity drills concern Oklahoma, Kansas border residents: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announcement that it was conducting biosecurity drills in the Oklahoma farming town of Newkirk was tucked among the local weekly newspaper’s classified ads. The notice mentioned a “low level outdoor release of inert chemical and biological simulant materials” and directed people to a science-heavy website explaining why the agency chose the community. About 9,000 wary residents of Newkirk and neighboring communities, including Arkansas City, Kan., just across the border, have signed a petition seeking more details from the federal agency. READ MORE

WATER SAFETY

GenX compound found in honey: The unregulated compound found in more than 80 drinking water wells near a chemical company’s manufacturing facility in North Carolina has been found in a food product for the first time. Tests found honey collected by a farmer about 2 miles southwest of the Chemours Co. plant outside Fayetteville had levels of the potentially harmful compound GenX nearly 15 times higher than the health goal set by state officials, The StarNews of Wilmington reported.READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

Venezuela crisis spurs ‘medical flea markets’: Venezuela’s critical medicine shortage has spurred “medical flea markets,” where peddlers offer everything from antibiotics to contraceptives laid out among the traditional fruits and vegetables. The crisis-wrought Latin American nation is heaving under worsening scarcity of drugs, as well as basic foods, due to tanking national production and strict currency controls that crimp imports. READ MORE

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

Largest cell phone fire alert ever: From the desert along the Mexican border to the central California coast, a distance of more than 300 miles, cellphones squawked and shook all at once on Wednesday night, and displayed a simple, serious message. “Strong winds overnight creating extreme fire danger,” it said. “Stay alert. Listen to authorities.” The alert went to most smartphones across seven counties that are home to more than 22 million people — by far California’s largest use of a disaster warning system created by Congress and activated in 2012. READ MORE

Flames engulf retirement communities, racehorse stables: Flames engulfed retirement communities built on golf courses, thoroughbreds in racehorse stables and other usually serene sites as the San Diego area became the latest front in California’s wildfire fight. The fire broke out Thursday amid dry, windy conditions that would be extreme for any season but are especially stunning just two weeks from winter. Hundreds of elite thoroughbred race horses sprinted away from flames Thursday as wildfires tore through a training center in San Diego County. Not all made it. There was no official count of how many animals were killed in the hazy confusion as both horses and humans evacuated, but trainers at San Luis Rey Downs estimated that at least a dozen had died, possibly far more. Read more HERE and HERE

Deep-South snow revives panicky memories: The snow that blanketed parts of the Deep South on Friday delighted schoolchildren with an unexpected holiday but also revived panicky memories for many adults of past storms that trapped commuters on interstates for hours. Businesses closed and commuters left work early as snow mixed with rain fell in downtown Atlanta, causing traffic jams on slushy roads far ahead of the usual rush hour. READ MORE