USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, June 14 - 20, 2012

Table of Contents

An Embassy Asks, Drones or Diplomacy?
As America's relationship with Pakistan has unraveled over the past 18 months, an important debate has been going on within the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad over the proper scope of CIA covert actions and their effect on diplomatic interests. The larger issue is the intersection of drone warfare and diplomacy. It's a crucial question for the Obama administration, which has sharply increased the CIA's use of these unmanned aircraft to strike at al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
See the full article (Washington Post, David Ignatius, 6/20/12)
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Mobile Data Could Predict How Populations Will Move After Disasters
The team at Sweden's Karolinska Institute studied data supplied by Digicel, Haiti's largest mobile network provider, from before and after the 2010 earthquake. The movements of 1.9 million mobile phone users revealed regular patterns of behaviour, including the fleeing of Port-au-Prince citizens away from the city and towards loved ones. This indicates population displacement after a natural disaster could be predicted in the future.
See the full article (Wired, Liat Clark, 6/19/12)
Click to read "Crowdsourcing Crisis Information in Disaster- Affected Haiti," a USIP Special Report by Jessica Heinzelman and Carol Waters.
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US, Israel Developed Flame Computer Virus to Slow Iranian Nuclear Efforts, Officials Say
The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage aimed at slowing Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort. Flame came to light last month after Iran detected a series of cyberattacks on its oil industry. The disruption was directed by Israel in a unilateral operation that apparently caught its American partners off guard.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Julie Tate, 6/19/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Change and Continuity in the Islamic Republic of Iran" on June 27 at 9:30am.
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Back to the Future: On National Geographic and Crisis Mapping
I've been tagged as the "Crisis Mapper" of the Emerging Explorers Class of 2012. So imagine my astonishment when I began discovering that National Geographic had a long history of covering and mapping natural disasters, humanitarian crises and wars starting from the very first issue of the magazine in 1888. Today, "new technologies--remote sensing, lasers, computer graphics, x-rays and CT scans--allow National Geographic to picture the world in new ways."
See the full article (National Geographic, Patrick Meier, 6/19/12)
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The Stuxnet Leak Was a Valuable Warning Shot
Congress may be throwing a fit over intelligence leaks that implicate the United States in an elaborate cyberattack against Iran's nuclear program, but to some of the world's leading cybersecurity experts, the revelations, far from doing harm, may actually do the world a favor. Stuxnet and Flame-should not be seen as fiendish pieces of technology that the military let loose and then lost through careless coding and opportunistic leaking, but something that hackers were doing long before the military muscled in.
See the full article (Newsweek, Trevor Butterworth, 6/18/12)
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US Shadow Wars Rely on Drones, Computers
After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile. Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm's way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint. It's war in the shadows, with the U.S. public largely in the dark.
See the full article (AP, Kimberly Dozier, 6/18/12)
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Africa: 'Alliance-Building' Approach Can Stop Rampant Conflict Over Land and Water
An unconventional approach that involves building alliances between groups competing for limited land and water resources has the potential to dramatically increase food production, boost rural incomes, improve human health and restore degraded land, rivers and habitats. Scientific advances in remote sensing and resource monitoring tools have also made it possible to assess resource use and availability across a landscape and to design win-win management strategies.
See the full article (All Africa, 6/14/12)
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Belarus May be Providing Syria with Deadly Military Technology
Western officials and outside analysts say that Belarus is providing Damascus with technology that would improve the capabilities of Assad's surface-to-surface missiles, one of the Syrian military's primary weapons during its brutal ongoing crackdown on rebels throughout the country. The growing concern about Belarus comes as senior American officials ratchet up criticism of Russia and Iran, Assad's primary international allies.
See the full article (Atlantic, Yochi J. Dreazen, 6/14/12)
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