USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, November 21 - December 4, 2013

Table of Contents

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

New MIT Media Lab Tool Lets Anyone Visualize Unwieldy Government Data
In the four years since the U.S. government created, the first national repository for open data, more than 400,000 datasets have become available online from 175 agencies. Dataviva, a project developed in part by media lab professor Cesar Hidalgo, aims to make a wide swath of government economic data usable with a series of visualization apps.
See the full article (Fast Company, Shaunacy Ferro, 12/4/13)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Inaugural PeaceGame 2013: Chart the Best Possible Peace for Syria," on December 9-10, 2013 at 8:00 am.
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UN Starts Drone Surveillance in DR Congo
The UN mission in Democratic Republic of Congo has started to deploy unarmed surveillance drones to monitor rebel activity near the forested borders with Rwanda and Uganda. This is the first time any UN mission has deployed drones. The first two were launched from the eastern city of Goma, which was last year briefly occupied by M23 rebels.
See the full article (BBC, 12/3/13)
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Iranian Rapper and Tech Website Staff Arrested
A popular underground rapper and several employees of a technology website have been arrested in Iran in two separate incidents. The website Narenji, which specialises in gadget news, reported that at least seven of its employees, including journalists and technical staff, had been arrested by revolutionary guards. Narenji said the reason for their arrests was "unknown" and it was unclear where they were being held.
See the full article (Wired, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, 12/3/13)
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SMS to Help Monitor Elections in the Arab World
Civil society organisations in Egypt and Tunisia are investigating quicker, more effective ways of monitoring elections using text messaging (SMS). Tunisia is expecting an election in six months, and the Egyptian government has promised to hold a presidential election “very soon”. In one new system tested in three African countries, SMS monitoring is carried out by hundreds of observers who send a stream of coded reports from polling stations via text messages from their mobile phones.
See the full article (Sci Dev, Rehab Abd Almohsen, 12/2/13)
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Israeli Hacking School Trains Cyber Warriors
Three hooded hackers hunch over their computer screens in the control room at Israel's new state-of-the-art "Cyber Gym", where IT and infrastructure company employees train to defend against cyber attacks. The facility, a series of small buildings in the shadow of the looming Orot Rabin power station on Israel's northern coastline, was inaugurated this month by the Israel Electric Corp (IEC), which has experienced its fair share of cyber attacks.
See the full article (, John Davison, 12/2/20)
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Drug Cartels In Mexico Now Using Twitter, Facebook As Recruitment Tool
Drug cartels in Mexico have notoriously misunderstood the word low profile, from pouting in selfies, to photographing their pistols; members of these violent and dangerous gangs have harnessed the power of social media to show off their lucrative lifestyle. Drug cartels are now using social media; specifically Twitter and Facebook, in the same way most retailers utilize the online tools--marketing.
See the full article (Latin Times, Donovan Longo, 12/2/13)
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Army Scores a Super-Stealthy Drone That Looks Like a Bird
The big problem with drones is they look like, well, drones. It makes them easy to spot, and easy to target. The Army has a solution to this problem: make them look like birds. A microdrone that resembles a bird would be harder to spot, the thinking goes, rendering them almost as invisible to the enemy as the soldiers controlling them. Maveric has a bird-like profile with flexible wings, giving it the appearance of a raptor in flight.
See the full article (Wired, Allen McDuffee, 11/27/13)
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Tweets Put a Twist on Diplomacy at Iran Nuclear Talks
Exhausted, you’ve just finished a marathon round of nuclear negotiations that failed. You are surprised to hear US Secretary of State John Kerry blame Iran for the breakdown. In the old days – and if Iran and the US had not severed diplomatic ties 34 years ago – you might have issued a demarche to Washington, demanding a more accurate accounting. But instead you turn to Twitter, as a member of Iran’s new presidential administration who has become adept as communicating directly with the outside world through Twitter and Facebook.
See the full article (Christian Science Monitor, 11/26/13)
Click to read "Iran Agreement Sets Agenda for Talks Toward Larger Pact" an Olive Branch Post by George Lopez.
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Pakistan Unveils its Own Military Drones, as Protests Continue against U.S. Attacks
Pakistan’s military unveiled two domestically produced drones Monday, even as the country is facing growing protests over U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil. After years of preparation, the Strategically Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were formally announced by Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chief of Pakistan’s military. The drones, called Burraq and Shahpar, will not be armed and are to be used only for surveillance, military officials said.
See the full article (Washington Post, Tim Craig and Haq Nawaz Khan, 11/25/13)
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Rocket Man: How an Unemployed Blogger Confirmed that Syria had used Chemical Weapons
Although [Eliot] Higgins has never been to Syria, and until recently had no connection to the country, he has become perhaps the foremost expert on the munitions used in the war. On YouTube, he scans as many as three hundred new videos a day, with the patience of an ornithologist. Even when a rocket has largely been destroyed, he can often identify it by whatever scraps survive.
See the full article (New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe, 11/25/13)
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Meet the Innovators: Tech Entrepreneurs Forge a New Future for the Western Balkans
The information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Kosovo, and in its neighboring countries, is developing very fast. It will need to, if it’s going to provide the jobs that the next generation will require. As countries in the region transition from the old Yugoslavia to the new knowledge economy, the Western Balkans countries are facing many of the same issues that other transition and developed countries face.
See the full article (PSD Blog, Jeanette Thomas, 11/25/13)
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Altered Images: How to Verify Photos of Current Events
With smartphone use widespread, images of unfolding events quickly fill social media networks. While many are genuine, it is not uncommon for a picture depicting something else entirely to be passed off as documenting a protest, a natural disaster or other event. BBC News receives photos every day from people across the world, many purporting to show unfolding events. Trushar Barot, of the BBC's user generated content team, says there are two aspects to verifying whether images are genuine - technical checks and editorial judgement.
See the full article (BBC, 11/22/13)
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