News in Brief: USDA Sued Over Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Trees, and More

A coalition of environmental and agricultural technology groups have sued the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for permitting open-air testing of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across seven southern states, according to the Environmental News Service. The groups fear the eucalyptus could become invasive and claim the USDA has not conducted a thorough environmental impact analysis on the project. The USDA issued the permit to allow international biotech company Aborgen continue experimenting with cold-tolerant eucalyptus for harvesting pulp products and biomass.

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The Asia Times reported that the US has increased its number of carrier strike groups opposite Iran to three in a short period of time, and analysts say the US has stepped up covert operations in preparation for actions against Iran as troop buildups have been observed around the Persian Gulf.

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The Obama administration asked a federal court in Louisiana late Tuesday to reinstate the moratorium on offshore drilling off the Gulf Coast, The New York Times reports. On June 22 a US District Court in New Orleans lifted the ban, which put hundreds out of work and halted 33 exploratory drilling operations while allowing existing rigs to continue pumping oil. The Interior and Justice Departments argued the ban was necessary to prevent irreparable harm to the environment.

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The federal government is launching a $100 million program to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running critical infrastructure like the electricity grid and nuclear power plants, according to The Wall Street Journal. The National Security Agency will run surveillance of potential cyber attacks through program, titled “Perfect Citizen.” Private military contractor Raytheon Corp. reportedly won the contract to develop the initial phase of the surveillance effort.