USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, December 6 - 12, 2012

Table of Contents

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

North Korea Rocket Launch Raises Nuclear Stakes
North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents. The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.
See the full article (Reuters, Jack Kim and Mayumi Negishi, 12/12/12)
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What the Syrian Internet Outage Tells Us About the Ultimate Dual-use Technology
Last week, a front page story in the Washington Post began: "Syria's civil war went offline Thursday as millions of people tracking the conflict over YouTube, Facebook and other high-tech services found themselves struggling against an unnerving national shutdown of the Internet." Despite denials from the Syrian government, there is strong evidence that they were in fact responsible for this attempt at isolating the country from the global information commons.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Irving Lachow, 12/12/12)
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UN Security Council Condemns North Korea Rocket Launch
The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea's rocket launch, after the isolated nation broke international law and UN sanctions by launching what Pyongyang says is a weather satellite into orbit. A senior Western diplomat also told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the United States, European states, Japan, and South Korea were among the countries that would like to see a resolution expanding sanctions against the regime passed.
See the full article (RFE/RL, 12/12/12)
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Iran Says it Can Make Copy of Captured CIA Drone
Iran is now capable of manufacturing its own copies of an advanced CIA spy drone captured last year, a senior Iranian lawmaker said Wednesday. Avaz Heidarpour, a member of the parliament's national security committee, said production of RQ-170 drone cost the U.S. around $20 billion, but the expensive technology is now in Iran's possession through reverse engineering.
See the full article (USA Today, 12/12/12)
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Sudan: Israeli 'Spy Vulture' Nabbed During Reconnaissance Mission
A vulture captured by Sudanese authorities is actually an Israeli spy on a secret reconnaissance mission, a pro-government newspaper in the east African nation has claimed. Government sources say the vulture, found in western Sudan, was tagged with a GPS-equipped camera to take and send pictures back to Israel. The bird also wore an ankle label reading "Hebrew University Jerusalem," "Israel Nature Service" and the contact details of an Israeli avian ecologist.
See the full article (CNN, Nick Thompson and Nima Elbagir, 12/12/12)
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Africa's Digital Election Trackers
A diverse range of information in sub-Saharan Africa - on everything from elections to regional drug shortages - is increasingly being monitored electronically. SMS and web-mapping services such as Google Maps are favourite tools for these efforts. There's a growing list of high-profile supporters for these types of activities.
See the full article (Al Jazeera, Travis Lupick, 12/12/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Crisis in Mali: Causes and Options" on December 18 at 10:00am.
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Meet the Assadosphere, the Online Defenders of Syria's Butcher
You might think it's hard to defend Bashar Assad, the Syrian dictator responsible for the murder of 40,000 human beings. You must be new to the internet. Assad doesn't have many allies IRL. But as the Syrian rebellion stretches into its 20th month, he's found (and paid for) a whole heap of friends online. Welcome to the Assadosphere - on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the web.
See the full article (Wired, Spencer Ackerman, 12/11/12)
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The Promise and Pitfalls of Science Diplomacy
This notion of science as a diplomatic tool - its use as an entry point to a recalcitrant society that simultaneously breaks down politically steeped preconceptions and offers tangible benefits - is a promising mode of development and a constructive brand of international relations. The Obama Administration understands the value of science diplomacy; last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the expansion of the Science Envoy program.
See the full article (Wired, Jeffrey Marlow, 12/11/12)
Click to read "Enabling Agricultural Extension for Peacebuilding" a USIP Special Report by Andrew Robertson.
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Hacking the Human Brain: The Next Domain of Warfare
It's been fashionable in military circles to talk about cyberspace as a "fifth domain" for warfare, along with land, space, air and sea. But there's a sixth and arguably more important warfighting domain emerging: the human brain. This new battlespace is not just about influencing hearts and minds with people seeking information. And the most powerful tool in this war is brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies, which connect the human brain to devices.
See the full article (Wired, Chloe Diggins and Clint Arizmendi, 12/11/12)
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Google Trends: The Moment Syria's 'Revolution' Became a 'Civil War'
Google trends tracks the frequency with which Google users enter certain search terms over time. It's an imperfect but revealing indication of how particular stories are perceived. And, based on the program's data, it looks like the world (or the cross-section that uses Google, anyway) is coming to see the 21-month conflict in Syria as more civil war than revolution or uprising.
See the full article (Washington Post, Max Fisher, 12/10/12)
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Death by Algorithm: West Point Code Shows Which Terrorists Should Disappear First
Paulo Shakarian has an algorithm that might one day help dismantle al-Qaida - or at least one of its lesser affiliates. It's an algorithm that identifies which people in a terror network really matter, like the mid-level players, who connect smaller cells with the larger militant group. Remove those people, either by drone or by capture, and it concentrates power and authority in the hands of one man. Remove that man, and you've broken the organization.
See the full article (Wired, Noah Shachtman, 12/6/12)
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which includes a special section on Internet and social media.

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