Cybersecurity a Major Issue in 2016 Presidential Campaign

The hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman John Podesta have been making headlines. So have leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee. Cybersecurity has been a major issue in the presidential campaign with wide ranging implications for both national security and private information.

Image of John Cohen
John D. Cohen, distinguished professor of professional practice in criminal justice and senior adviser to the Rutgers Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security. Cohen formerly served as Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Rutgers Today spoke with John D. Cohen, a distinguished professor of professional practice in criminal justice and senior adviser to the Rutgers Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, about how we should react to these threats. Cohen was formerly Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the United States Department of Homeland Security.

In the past year, we’ve heard that the Democratic National Committee emails were hacked and that the email system used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon was hacked. Yahoo recently acknowledged a breach. Why is this happening?

Cohen: The continuing drum beat of high profile breaches show that the cyber threat environment continues to evolve and expand. Government and private sector entities must deal with the growing likelihood that their systems will be compromised and sensitive data contained within will be extracted and utilized to support intelligence collection and/or other criminal activity. These trends reflect the growing use of cyberattacks by nation states such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea to project global influence – essentially through the use of cut-out hacking groups to wreak havoc or steal sensitive economic, national security and other information in furtherance of geo-political goals.

Read more here.

Kinnelon High School (KHS) students seized an opportunity to conduct high level scientific research at the Waksman Student Scholars Program (WSSP) Summer Institute at Rutgers University.


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Madelaine Travaille, the school district’s science supervisor, said a science research club was started at KHS in the 2015-16 school year. Two of the 10 dedicated club members, Pranav Reddy and Kate Dolph, applied and were accepted into the WSSP Summer Institute, which is an intensive three-week program where the students complete lab work with scientists at Rutgers.

The students worked identifying the genetics of a duckweed plant known as Landoltia punctata. The students’ identification of the nucleic acid sequences of genes was published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information sequence databases.

Travaille first became acquainted with WSSP when she was a science teacher in the Montville school district. This program provides opportunities for high school students and their teachers to conduct an authentic research project in molecular biology and bioinformatics.

These students participated in the Barcode of Life program, which supports the generation and application of DNA barcode data with the data being published in an international database.

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Designing the Future Internet


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This century, our world will be flooded with hundreds of billions of smartphones, gadgets, sensors and other smart objects connected to the internet.

They will perform myriad services, such as monitoring our health, helping run households and boosting driver safety. At Rutgers, Dipankar “Ray” Raychaudhuriis at the forefront of efforts to redesign the internet to handle the enormous increase in traffic.

“The traffic that comes from mobile devices into the internet has been increasing exponentially. It used to be 10 percent five years ago – now it’s over 50 percent,” said Raychaudhuri, a distinguished professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering and director of the WINLAB(Wireless Information Network Lab).

“As a result, mobile wireless capacity is beginning to run out,” he said. “That’s why cellular operators have to give you data limits. When you try to use a mobile phone and you’re downloading a web page, it stalls unexpectedly at times and you have to wait for the signal to improve. Also, there are all kinds of holes in the security system that need to be fixed.”

In 2010, the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched a Future Internet Architecture initiative and invited academics to take a fresh look at the internet. Raychaudhuri and colleagues proposed a “MobilityFirst” project aimed at reimagining the Internet, winning major NSF funding.

The MobilityFirst project, now in its sixth year, includes experts at Rutgers, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The NSF provided $3.275 million to Rutgers from 2010 to 2014 and $2.9 million since 2014, said Raychaudhuri, the project’s principal investigator.

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Deadly Intestinal Disease in Preemies May Be Caused by Genetic Deficiency


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premature infant
A major cause of death in babies born before 36 weeks gestation may be caused by a disruption in a process that enables the body to generate energy needed for cells to work properly, according to a Rutgers study.
In research published in the journal Development, scientists found a link between necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) – a major cause of death in babies born before 36 weeks gestation – and the disruption of a process known as mitochondrial metabolism, which generates the energy needed for cells in the body to work properly.“At this time we think the discovery that mitochondrial metabolism is a hallmark of mature intestinal development may provide a new way to screen and diagnose NEC before children are born, or at the time of their birth,” said Michael Verzi, assistant professor in the Department of Genetics in Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study. “Early detection of NEC would give doctors a chance to head off the disease before it’s too late.”

There is no known cause for NEC which occurs in up to 10 percent of premature infants and is fatal 25 to 35 percent of the time. Babies with the disease – which results in a swollen belly, fever and constipation usually within two weeks of birth – are treated with intravenous fluids, antibiotics or surgery. While research indicates that the disease is much less common in babies who are fed breast milk, even infants treated successfully for NEC can have problems absorbing nutrients as they develop.

Read more here.

Voters with Disabilities and the 2016 Presidential Election


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On Nov. 8, 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote, representing about one-sixth of the electorate.

When Donald Trump mocked a disabled New York Times reporter last year, he ignited a firestorm in the disability community. Hillary Clinton responded with a television ad featuring a well-known disability rights advocate, and she recently introduced a plan to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities. Rutgers Today asked Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations Professors Douglas Kruse and Lisa Schur about their latest research on the political participation of people with disabilities and how the candidates’ actions could influence voter turnout.

Have you ever seen a presidential election with so much focus on the disability community?

Schur: People with disabilities are definitely receiving more attention in this election.  Disability has long been a bipartisan issue in the U.S., as shown by the strong support from both Republicans and Democrats for the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2008 ADA Amendments Act, which expanded the definition of disability to cover more people. So disability has not been a significant partisan issue in past elections, but that changed this year with the controversy created by Trump’s behavior and the focus by Clinton on policies to expand employment for people with disabilities.

You’ve analyzed mountains of federal data to project the total number of eligible voters with disabilities, nationwide and on a state-by-state basis. What are your significant findings?

Douglas Kruse

Kruse: Based on Census data, we project that 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote on Nov. 8, representing about one-sixth of the electorate.  Perhaps more importantly, we project 62.7 million eligible voters who either have disabilities or household members with disabilities, representing over one-fourth of the electorate.  This is important because family members of people with disabilities are often very motivated to take action on disability issues, so disability can motivate the whole family.  We find large numbers of people with disabilities in every age, racial, and ethnic group.  In addition, there are large numbers of people with disabilities in every state, ranging from 12.7 percent of the electorate in Nebraska to 24.1 percent in West Virginia.

Read more here.

Glaucoma Breakthrough 2016: Early Detection and Experimental Drug Could Help With Vision Loss, Researchers Say



From Medical Daily:
Researchers for the first time identified distinct characteristics of different types of glaucoma using optical coherence tomography (OCT) angiography by observing the disease in its earlier stages. The findings published Friday in the journal IOVS could help doctors diagnose the illness earlier, which could help slow down the loss of vision associated with glaucoma.

The disease, which is characterized by progressive loss of vision, occurs when the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain is damaged due to pressure. OCT angiography, an advanced imaging system, can capture the movement of red blood cells in the blood vessels without having to use dye injections as is the case with traditional angiography.

Researchers from the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School found that patients with glaucoma have poor blood flow compared with people who don’t have glaucoma. They observed 92 people between April and August 2015. All the patients were over 50 years of age and belonged to one of the three groups: primary open-angle or high-pressure glaucoma, normal-tension or low-pressure glaucoma, and no glaucoma.

Read more here.

Rutgers Students Grow Their Own Food Through New RU Ready to Farm Program


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“Helyar House is the only reason I am able to attend Rutgers, because of the financial opportunities it grants me and the fact that founders Frank Heylar and Richard Merritt made sure generations of students like myself can attend college,” he said. “I want to make sure that history is preserved.’’

Brennan had wanted Helyar House to reconnect with its agricultural roots since his first year on campus and found other students who shared his interest in growing some of their own food. But they faced a major obstacle: the academic year does not coincide with the growing season in New Jersey.

The students shared their idea with Bill Hlubik, a professor and agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension who is an adviser for Heylar House. Hlublik was developing a new program for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station that would provide research-based classes to New Jersey residents interested in learning about farming.

Eventually the two ideas came together. Hlubik found a greenhouse near the residence hall that was available, making it possible to grow food during the school year. He found local farmers who were willing to donate plants and seeds, and enlisted the help of a student who had experience in the building industry to help design a chicken coop.

The students are growing kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, lavender, several kinds of mint, basil and rosemary. They plan to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries and other vegetables and will do research on how the plants thrive and produce in a greenhouse. Part of their research project involves figuring out the best combination of plants to grow and the amount of food they will be able to produce.

Read more here.

Chief of New York City’s Zika Testing Lab is a Rutgers Graduate


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When the media started reporting on the Zika virus outbreak in South America earlier this year, Rutgers graduate Jennifer Rakeman knew she and her staff were in for a very busy 2016.

Rakeman is the assistant commissioner and laboratory director for the New York City Public Health Lab. Among her responsibilities is conducting testing when there is an outbreak of a disease, and when Zika hit the news, she knew the virus was going to make its way to New York.

“New York City is a place where a lot of people travel to and emigrate to,” Rakeman says. “We have many people living in New York City who were born in and visit countries impacted early on in this outbreak. We knew we were going to be doing a lot of testing here.”

Rakeman has been at the forefront of testing for Zika, with the lab conducting more than 8,000 tests. As of mid-September, there have been 550 positive results, including 58 for pregnant women.

Dealing with a disease such as Zika means processing new information as more is learned about it. The disease is transmitted mainly through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. While those mosquitoes aren’t in New York, Rakeman says a relative of it is, so there is testing of mosquitoes in New York City, even if it is unlikely the disease will be found in any of the city’s pests.

“We don’t expect that but we want to be prepared, just in case,” she says. “I’ve learned more about mosquitoes in the last months than I ever thought I’d need to know as a microbiologist, so we’re constantly learning.”

Read more here.

The Challenge of Engaging Millennial Voters in the 2016 Election


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Who are the millennial voters?
Matto: Millennials are generally considered as those born after approximately 1980. Standing at about 77 million, the generation is on track to be the nation’s largest generation. It’s also one of the most ethnically diverse generations in American history – nearly 20 percent of millennials are immigrants themselves or children of immigrants. It’s a generation that is highly educated but also heavily burdened by student loan debt. Often referred to as “digital natives,” one the generation’s strengths is its proficiency in its use of technology and new media. It’s a generation that despite economic hardships is optimistic about its future and has a strong desire to fix public problems.

How significant of a voting bloc are they?
Matto: Millennials are a growing percentage of the eligible electorate. Currently, 21 percent of all eligible voters are between the ages of 18-29. In total, there are 49 million young adults eligible to vote (compared to 45 million voters who are 65 years old or more). In 2016, there will be a large number of new young voters – 16.5 million young adults turned 18 since the 2012 race.

Are they less engaged now than past elections?
Matto: According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) the recent primary contests witnessed very strong, even record-breaking, rates of turnout among young adults. The percentage of eligible 18-29 year olds who voted in 2016 was equal to or greater than rates in 2008 (which saw the third highest voter turnout rate among youth since 1972) and much of that increase was driven by Republican voters.

Read more here.

Minority Biomedical Research Support Program at Rutgers-Newark Honored by HINJ


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The HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ) this morning honored five individuals and one organization for their contributions in public service, medical sciences research, patient access/advocacy and education.

The recipients of HINJ’s 2016 honors, which were presented at the Historic Trenton Masonic Temple, were:

Special Recognition:  Barry R. Komisaruk, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor

Director, NIH – Minority Biomedical Research Support Program, Rutgers-Newark

Dr. Komisaruk’s commitment to science education for students at all levels, combined with his distinguished research and publication record, has won the professor numerous awards. He joined the faculty at Rutgers-Newark in 1966.  He serves as the Director of the NIH – Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Program, which aims to help fill the nation’s shortage of minority men and women in biomedical research careers.

Read more here.