USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, March 7 - 13, 2013

Table of Contents

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Researchers Find 25 Countries Using Surveillance Software
Last May, two security researchers volunteered to look at a few suspicious e-mails sent to some Bahraini activists. Almost one year later, the two have uncovered evidence that some 25 governments, many with questionable records on human rights, may be using off-the-shelf surveillance software to spy on their own citizens.
See the full article (New York Times, Nicole Perlroth, 3/13/13) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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Preventing an Arctic Cold War
Today, as the effects of global warming are amplified in the high north, most of the ocean is open water during the summer and covered by ice only in the winter. This unexpected transformation has radically altered the stakes for the Arctic, especially for the eight nations and indigenous peoples that surround it. The potential for such conflict is high, even though tensions are now low.
See the full article (New York Times, Paul Arthur Berkman, 3/12/13) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
Click to read "Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace," a USIP Special Report by Frederick S. Tipson.
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In Manifesto, Mexican Eco-Terrorists Declare War on Nanotechnology
Over the past two years, Mexican scientists involved in bio- and nanotechnology have become targets. They're not threatened by the nation's drug cartels. They're marked for death by a group of bomb-building eco-terrorists with the professed goal of destroying human civilization.
See the full article (Wired, Robert Beckhusen, 3/12/13)
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Cyber-attacks a Bigger Threat than Al Qaeda, Officials Say
Cyber-attacks and cyber-espionage pose a greater potential danger to U.S. national security than Al Qaeda and other militants that have dominated America's global focus since Sept. 11, 2001, the nation's top intelligence officials said Tuesday. For the first time, the growing risk of computer-launched foreign assaults on U.S. infrastructure was ranked higherthan worries about terrorism, transnational organized crime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
See the full article (Los Angeles Times, Ken Dilanian, 3/12/13)
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My Search for a Smartphone That is Not Soaked in Blood
For 17 years, rival armies and militias [in the Democratic Republic of Congo] have been fighting over the region's minerals. Among them are metals critical to the manufacture of electronic gadgets, without which no smartphone would exist: tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. While these elements are by no means the only reason for conflict there, they help to fund it, supporting a fragmented war that - through direct killings, displacement, disease and malnutrition - has now killed several million people.
See the full article (Guardian, George Monbiot, 3/11/13)
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Iran Is Blocking Tools Used to Evade Internet Filters
Iran has blocked many of the Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that some citizens use to dodge the government's Internet filters, Iranian media reported Sunday. The Iranian government is still allowing citizens to use a short list of approved VPNs which could potentially be more easily monitored for unwanted behavior. Whether Iranians will actually use the government-approved VPNs remains an open question.
See the full article (Mashable, Alex Fitzpatrick, 3/11/13)
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Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat in the Pacific, Says Top U.S. Admiral
North Korea just annulled the 1953 armistice ending its war with South Korea. China and Japan are locked in a dispute over an island chain. But the greatest long-term threat to the peace of East Asia and Pacific Ocean - the part of the world at the heart of the Obama administration's aspirational defense strategy - is climate change, according to the admiral in charge of U.S. military operations there.
See the full article (Wired, Spencer Ackerman, 3/11/13)
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The Global Swarm
Depending on which source you want to cite, there are currently between 75 and 87 countries that have used unmanned aircraft in their militaries. Only the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel are known to have used armed drones operationally, but the limit on why others have not is frequently political, not technological. However, these political limits are changing.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, P.W. Singer, 3/11/13) *Foreign Policy sign-up may be required to view the full article
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How Kenya's High-Tech Voting Nearly Lost the Election
It was supposed to be the most modern election in African history. Biometric identification kits with electronic thumb pads, registration rolls on laptops at every polling station, and an SMS-relayed, real-time transmission of the results to the National Tallying Center in Nairobi. Ambitious? Of course. Only 23 percent of the country has access to electricity.
See the full article (NPR, Gregory Warner, 3/9/13)
Click to read "Largely Peaceful Kenyan Vote Bolstered by Youth, Technology," a USIP News Feature by Viola Gienger.
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Peace Brings New Pressures on Water in Northern Sri Lanka
When she came back to her house almost two-and-a-half years after fleeing it amid intense fighting, Rajina Mary looked desperately for one thing - the well in her garden. As people return to the war-ravaged region, experts are warning that pressures on its water supply are growing and that using water sparingly will be crucial, particularly as climate change brings more weather extremes.
See the full article (AlertNet, Amantha Perera, 3/8/13)
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Gray Matter
The Chinese People's Liberation Army has been systematically stealing technology worth billions of dollars from countless American companies in many industries. Is this news? Not to American intelligence agencies. The hidden story here is that the private sector can perform first-class intelligence collection and analysis that a few years ago could have been done only by a nation-state.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Joel Brenner, 3/8/13) *Foreign Policy sign-up may be required to view the full article
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