USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, March 15 - 21, 2012

Table of Contents

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which includes a special section on Internet and social media.**

African Innovations
Across Africa, developers and programmers are coming up with new technologies from mobile banking to mapping software and medical tablets to cloud storage. Now the continent is increasingly relying on its own homegrown innovations. But this technology revolution is not without its challenges. So what are the obstacles facing the industry, and will this new breed of innovators be able to overcome them?
See the full article (Al Jazeera, 3/20/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "The Next Decade: Seizing Opportunities from a Transforming Africa" on March 28 at 11:00am.
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Scientists Warn of Ethical Battle Concerning Military Mind Control
A future of brain-controlled tanks, automated attack drones and mind-reading interrogation techniques may arrive sooner than later, but advances in neuroscience that will usher in a new era of combat come with tough ethical implications for both the military and scientists responsible for the technology, according to one of the country's leading bioethicists. [Jonathan] Moreno warns that the military's interest in neuroscience advancements "generates a tension in its relationship with science."
See the full article (US News & World Report, Jason Koebler, 3/20/12)
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No Test Can Read Robert Bales' Mind
The aftermath of last week's killing of 16 Afghans has prompted a flurry of speculation into the mind of 38-year old U.S. combat staff sergeant Robert Bales. In particular, the injuries to it. Traumatic brain injuries are so common among today's troops that the military has spent over $42 million for a test to detect them, a test that Bales most likely took before his final deployment to Afghanistan. The problem is, that test has failed miserably. A former Army surgeon general has called [the ANAM test] no better than a "coin flip."
See the full article (Atlantic, Lena Groeger, 3/20/12)
Click to read "Killing of Afghan Civilians Deepens U.S.-Afghan Tensions," a USIP On the Issues by Andrew Wilder.
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Use of 'Conflict Minerals' Gets More Scrutiny From U.S.
An iPhone can do a lot of things. But can it arm Congolese rebels? That is the question being debated by a battalion of lobbyists from electronics makers, mining companies and international aid organizations that has descended on the Securities and Exchange Commission in recent months seeking to influence the drafting of a Dodd-Frank regulation that has nothing to do with the financial crisis. The measure is aimed at cutting off the brutal militia groups that have often taken over the mining and sale of so-called conflict minerals to finance their military aims.
See the full article (New York Times, Edward Wyatt, 3/19/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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DuQu Mystery Language Solved With the Help of Crowdsourcing
A group of researchers who recently asked the public for help in figuring out a mysterious language used in the DuQu virus have solved the puzzle, thanks to crowdsourcing help from programmers. DuQu, an espionage tool that followed in the wake of the infamous Stuxnet code, had been analyzed extensively since its discovery last year. Kaspersky researchers were unable to determine the language in which the communication module was written and published a blog post asking programmers for help. Identification of the language would help them build a profile of DuQu's authors.
See the full article (Wired, Kim Zetter, 3/19/12)
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Why War Isn't Inevitable: A Science Writer Studies the Secret to Peaceful Societies
In The End of War, veteran science journalist John Horgan applies the scientific method to reach a unique conclusion: biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as we are to be violent. So what keeps humans bound by a seemingly never-ending cycle of war? A longtime Scientific American writer and director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan also charts a new course for rejecting the old paradigm of war's inevitability and finally releasing mankind from its destructive grip.
See the full article (AlterNet, Brad Jacobson, 3/18/12)
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U.S. Accelerating Cyberweapon Research
The possibility of a confrontation with Iran or Syria has highlighted for American military planners the value of cyberweapons that can be used against an enemy whose most important targets, such as air defense systems, do not rely on Internet-based networks. Officials are [also] researching cyberweapons that can target "offline" military systems in part by harnessing emerging technology that uses radio signals to insert computer coding into networks remotely.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, 3/18/12)
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Immoral Tech? IT Vendors Refuse to Bid on Pakistan Censorship Scheme
On Monday evening, McAfee became the fifth major IT vendor to pledge it won't bid on a Request for Proposals from the Pakistani government for adding enhanced censorship capabilities to Pakistan's Internet backbone. Four other major IT companies have also pledged not to submit bids, and more than 16,000 people have signed a petition urging other companies to follow suit. [While] Pakistan currently censors a wide variety of websites, the government wants to build a more centralized and automated system.
See the full article (Ars Technica, Timothy B. Lee, 3/15/12)
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