USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, September 22 - 28, 2011

Table of Contents

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GPS Humanitarianism
Today in Somalia, high-intensity violence limits the ability of U.N. and international NGO workers to move around the country safely. Enter Skype and GPS, which have become critical tools for advancing humanitarian and development programs. Yet while technology ensures the safety of U.N. foreign national staff and allows aid to reach more people in need, it complicates the relationship between international workers and the locals contracted by these organizations to carry out fieldwork in war zones.
See the full article (Slate, Bridget Guarasci, 9/28/11)
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IPhone App Pilots Drone Aircraft from 3,000 Miles Away
Military mobile apps may one day help soldiers wage war on the battlefield. Engineers and researchers at Boeing Co. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an iPhone application to fly a miniature drone aircraft from some 3,000 miles away.
See the full article (Los Angeles Times, W.J. Hennigan, 9/27/11)
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Spy Agency to Use Data Mining to Spot Emerging Technologies
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's office is launching a new research project aimed at spotting important emerging technologies before they reach their tipping point. The agency's idea is to get in on the ground floor of important new technologies to maintain an intelligence advantage over adversaries, according to a press release Tuesday.
See the full article (Nextgov, Joseph Marks, 9/27/11)
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Security Expert: U.S. 'Leading Force' Behind Stuxnet
One year ago, German cyber security expert Ralph Langner announced he had found a computer worm designed to sabotage a nuclear facility in Iran. It's called Stuxnet, and it was the most sophisticated worm Langner had ever seen. He says he couldn't imagine who could have created the worm, and the level of expertise seemed almost alien. "Thinking about it for another minute, if it's not aliens, it's got to be the United States," he says.
See the full article (NPR, Tom Gjelten, 9/26/11)
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Study: Power Without Status can Lead to Rudeness, Even Abuse
A new study by three universities shows that people holding positions of power with low status tend to demean others, one of the authors said. The research sheds light on why clerks can seem rude or even why the Abu Ghraib guards humiliated and tortured their prisoners, the researcher said. In an article to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers studied the relationship between the status and the power of a job, said Nathanael Fast, assistant professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.
See the full article (CNN, Michael Martinez, 9/25/11)
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Taking iPads into Battle
Phones and other smart devices are being tested across all branches of the military. Seeing an opportunity, software firms and defense contractors are developing apps that will enable soldiers to pass along intelligence, view reconnaissance images or even pilot small drones by remote control.
See the full article (Los Angeles Times, W.J. Hennigan, 9/25/11)
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Russia 'Believes US, Israel Behind Iran Worm Attack'
Russia believes Israel and the United States were responsible for unleashing the malicious Stuxnet computer worm on Iran's nuclear programme last year, a top official said on Friday. "We are seeing attempts of cyberspace being used by some states to act against others -- of it being used for political-military purposes," said the Foreign Ministry's Emerging Challenges and Threats Department chief Ilya Rogachyov.
See the full article (AFP, 9/23/11)
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New Video Game Focusing on War Correspondents
A group of software developers from Brisbane are creating a computer game in which the players are war correspondents reporting from a conflict zone. The game's creators say it's a realistic portrayal of life as a war correspondent, although with many of the more mundane details taken out. But not everyone's impressed.
See the full article (ABC, Timothy McDonald, 9/23/11)
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Russian Spy Agency Targeting Western Diplomats
Russia's spy agency is waging a massive undercover campaign of harassment against British and American diplomats, as well as other targets, using deniable "psychological" techniques developed by the KGB, a new book reveals. The Federal Security Service (FSB) operation involves breaking into the private homes of western diplomats - a method the US state department describes as "home intrusions". Typically the agents move around personal items, open windows and set alarms in an attempt to demoralise and intimidate their targets.
See the full article (Guardian, 9/23/11)
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