PeaceTech News Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


PeaceTech Roundup
Weekly News Highlights, February 13 - 19, 2014


Peace Channel

Featured Story:
Cheap and Dirty Bombs
by William C Potter and Jeffrey Lewis


Media and Social Media

Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

The Hashtag War In Brazil
The massive protests that took the streets of Brazil last June were sparked by a raise in bus fares, but soon other issues -- such as the high investments in the World Cup -- were included in the outraged signs carried by protesters. Heated debates followed in Brazil's vibrant social media -- Brazil has over 65 million Facebook users - with both sides accusing the other of authoritarianism.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Natalia Viana, 2/19/14)
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Made in Ukraine
Presently, Ukraine may find its most viable freedom myth within its own ranks. With social media and news outlets under attack for recycling identical reports and making developments difficult to gauge, pamphlets - flashbacks to tried-and-true Soviet-era samizdat (self-publishing) - are again relevant for disseminating authentic voices. So far, the country's far-right opposition party Svoboda has led this retro vanguard. Yet recently, as journalists and activists Mykola Tukolo and Tetyana Movchan tell Kiev's Hromadske radio, alternatives have emerged.
See the full article (Al Jazeera America, Yuliya Komska, 2/19/14)
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Media Muzzle: Egypt's Propaganda Drive
When Egypt's prosecutor general last month charged 16 Egyptian and four foreign Al Jazeera journalists with broadcasting false news and colluding with a terrorist group, Rena Netjes thought she had nothing to fear. The government and its supporters have gone beyond the Al Jazeera network and accused most of Egypt's foreign media of portraying the situation inside the country in a negative light, when they say they are on a path to democracy.
See the full article (Deutsche Welle, Kristen McTighe, 2/19/14)
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Afghan Ethnic Tensions Rise in Media and Politics
It started with a heat-of-the-moment comment on a partisan television talk show, drawing an ethnic line that was bold even by Afghan standards. "Pashtuns are the rulers and owners of Afghanistan; they are the real inhabitants of Afghanistan," said Gen. Abdul Wahid Taqat, a former intelligence official. "Afghanistan means 'where Pashtuns live.' " The words ignited protests in Kabul in December. Social media erupted.
See the full article (New York Times, Azam Ahmed and Habib Zahori, 2/18/14)*NYT subscription may be required to access full story
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Getting Beyond 2014 in Afghanistan" on February, 28, 2014 at 9:00am.
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Can Cartoons Explain the Horror of North Korea to the Chinese?
The illustrations appeared late at night on the U.N.'s Weibo social-media account in China. Despite their cartoonish renderings, the drawings depicted the horrifying abuse used by a communist Asian regime to tame its populace. The drawings, which were based on the recollections of an escaped political prisoner, described life in North Korea's vast network of gulags.
See the full article (Time, Hannah Beech, 2/18/14)
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'The YouTube War': Citizen Videos Revolutionize Human Rights Monitoring in Syria
Fueled by the proliferation of Internet connectivity and mobile technology, the media landscape today has shifted dramatically again, having serious implications for human rights monitoring. Information is distributed less through official media outlets, such as TV broadcasts and newspapers, and more through online social networks in real-time, thus-more than ever-putting reporting on human rights abuses beyond the control of governments.
See the full article (PBS, Christoph Koettl, 2/18/14)
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Web Warriors Cause Big Bother for Big Brother
While working for the Wall Street Journal, Emily Parker met bloggers who fought for freedom - and was amazed by their courage. She has written a book based on her experiences of nearly a decade covering these netizens in Beijing, Havana and Moscow.
See the full article (BBC, Tara McKelvey, 2/18/14)
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Syria's Jihadist Twitter Wars
Jihadists on both sides of the aisle have taken to Twitter to savage the opposite faction for promoting fitna, or strife, within the ranks of the mujahideen. But beyond the rank and file, some important personalities have used Twitter to voice their displeasure. The most fascinating Twitter flamer has gone by the name @wikibaghdady. While his real name isn't known, wikibaghdady is thought to be a senior leader in the ISIS, and possibly a disenchanted member of the group's shura, or executive council, U.S. intelligence officials have told The Daily Beast.
See the full article (Daily Beast, Bill Roggio, 2/16/14)
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Photo from Djibouti wins World Press Photo Award
US photojournalist John Stanmeyer has won first prize in the 2014 World Press Photo awards for his image of African migrants near Djibouti city. The moonlit image shows men trying to get a phone signal from nearby Somalia. Panel member Jillian Edelstein said the photo raised issues of technology, globalisation, migration, poverty, desperation, alienation and humanity.
See the full article (BBC, 2/14/14)
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How Social Media Spreads Protest Tactics from Ukraine to Egypt
In the absence of protest workshops and 'how-to' manuals, video footage captured on mobile phones in Kiev (and elsewhere) and uploaded to social media sites now serves as a repository for protest tactics, to be studied and adapted by anti-coup protesters thousands of miles away in Cairo. Social media facilitates the diffusion of these new tactics, allowing protesters in Cairo to follow the activities of their comrades in the governorates and vice versa.
See the full article (Washington Post, Neil Ketchley, 2/14/14)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Twitter Evolutions: The Changing Role of Social Media in War and Protest" on February, 24, 2014 at 9:00am.
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Venezuela's Political Crisis Hits the Streets
Venezuela's students, along with its opposition leaders, took to the streets on Feb. 12 to demand changes from the country's leadership. The local media has largely ignored the story. Most TV and radio channels are either owned by the government or subject to self-censorship. Reporters claiming to be from some of these outlets even have anonymous Twitter accounts that enable them to skirt corporate guidelines on what can be reported.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Juan Nagel, 2/13/14)
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Ambassador Power is 'Unleashed' on Twitter
Samantha Power was silenced for years while working as a special assistant to the president. As US ambassador to the United Nations, though, she is letting loose. Yet diplomats play a public role. On social media she seems like herself again. She is described on Twitter as an ambassador and a "human rights defender". She has been tweeting since August, shortly after she became ambassador, and has more than 51,000 followers.
See the full article (BBC, Tara McKelvey, 2/13/14)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Symposium on Language, Peace, and Security" on February, 21, 2014 at 1:00pm.
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Featured Story from Foreign Policy's Peace Channel

Cheap and Dirty Bombs by William C Potter and Jeffrey Lewis
During North Korea's July 2013 "Victory Day" parade, spectators were treated to a curious sight: a truckload of soldiers, each strapped into a chest pack festooned with the black and yellow radiation symbol. The parade images and oil paintings suggest commando-delivered nuclear-related devices of some sort -- an understanding consistent with North Korean defectors, who have suggested that the country might possess "backpack" nuclear devices.
See the full article

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Technology and Science

Lie Detector on the Way to Test Social Media Rumors
A lie detector for social media is being built to try to verify online rumours. "There was a suggestion after the 2011 riots that social networks should have been shut down, to prevent the rioters using them to organise," said Dr Kalina Bontcheva, lead researcher on the project at the University of Sheffield. "But social networks also provide useful information. The problem is that it all happens so fast and we can't quickly sort truth from lies."
See the full article (BBC, 2/19/14)
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Can Twitter Predict Major Events Such As Mass Protests?
Social media sites such as Twitter can predict the future has a controversial history. In the last few years, various groups have claimed to be able to predict everything from the outcome of elections to the box office takings for new movies. Today, Nathan Kallus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge says he has developed a way to predict crowd behaviour using statements made on Twitter.
See the full article (MIT Technology Review, 2/18/14)
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Breakfast Before the MOOC
Beginning March 2, Prof. Hossam Haick, will teach the first ever massive open online course, or MOOC, on nanotechnology in Arabic. For me, though, Haick's MOOC is also a reminder of what an utter waste of money and human talent has been the Arab-Israeli conflict. Look how eager all these young Arabs and Persians are for the tools and resources to realize their full potential, wherever they can find that learning.
See the full article (New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, 2/18/14)*NYT subscription may be required to access full story
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How America's Soldiers Fight for the Spectrum on the Battlefield
An electromagnetic mystery in northern Iraq changed the course of Jesse Potter's life. It is well known that America's military dominates both the air and the sea. What's less celebrated is that the US has also dominated the spectrum, a feat that is just as critical to the success of operations. Communications, navigation, battlefield logistics, precision munitions-all of these depend on complete and unfettered access to the spectrum, territory that must be vigilantly defended from enemy combatants.
See the full article (Wired, Brendan Koerner, 2/18/14)
Click to read "How will the Taliban Respond to Afghanistan's Elections?" an Olive Branch Post by Thomas Omestad.
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Apple Plans to Cease Using Conflict Minerals
Apple plans to cease using conflict minerals, the company has announced in its annual supplier responsibility report. As of the end of January, Apple's entire supply of tantalum, a rare metal used extensively in the production of capacitors, is provided by smelters verified as conflict-free. The move was announced in Apple's supplier responsibility report, the eighth edition of which was published on Thursday.
See the full article (Guardian, Alex Hern, 2/14/14)
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Is Cyberwar Real?
Cyberwar, in fact, is part of the evolution of conventional warfare, which itself is linked to broader social and political change. It is no longer easy to imagine a confrontation that does not include some element of cyber-activity, such as surveillance or sabotage. Asking whether cyberwar is real, then, is less important than concentrating on how to contain the threats posed by some uses of computer technology.
See the full article (Foreign Affairs, Jarno Limnéll and Thomas Rid, 2/14)
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Nazis 'Researched Use of Mosquitoes for War' at Dachau
German scientists at Dachau concentration camp researched the possible use of malaria-infected mosquitoes as weapons during World War Two, a researcher has claimed. He speculates that such insects could have been dropped over enemy territory and scientists were investigating the possible use of malaria - transmitted via mosquitoes - as a biological weapon.
See the full article (BBC, 2/14/14)
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Climate Change is Here Now and It Could Lead to Global Conflict
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last September pointed to a changing pattern of extreme weather since 1950, with more heatwaves and downpours in many parts of the world, as the Earth has warmed by about 0.7C. The shift to such a world could cause mass migrations of hundreds of millions of people away from the worst-affected areas. That would lead to conflict and war, not peace and prosperity.
See the full article (Guardian, Nicholas Stern, 2/13/14)
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In the Middle East, Arabic Wikipedia Is a Flashpoint - And a Beacon
Arabic Wikipedia has evolved enormously since that 2007 incident. Far more than a translation of its English counterpart, the site has 690,000 registered users who've authored more than 240,000 articles. Many of the articles reflect a Middle Eastern worldview entirely different from the Western one, and their writers navigate acute religious and political sensitivities. Arabic Wikipedia has been blocked twice in Saudi Arabia and three times in Syria, but not in Jordan or Egypt.
See the full article (Wired, Alice Su, 2/12/14)
Click to read "Libya's New Plan for a Constitution: Can It Overcome the Chaos?" an Olive Branch Post by Darine El-Hage.
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