USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, August 18 - 24, 2011

Table of Contents

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

Robots and the End of War as We Know It
Rapid advances in robotics technology, combined with the need for innovative new technologies to combat insurgents on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, are turning robots and unmanned drones into the next hot area of military innovation. The most sophisticated of the new military bots weigh less than five pounds. Then there are others that can fit into your pocket, and be connected via a mesh network.
See the full article (Washington Post, Dominic Basulto, 8/24/11)
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Special Report: In Libya, the Cellphone as Weapon
When Muammar Gaddafi's government shut off the cellphone network in Misrata in the early days of Libya's uprising, it wanted to stop rebel forces communicating with each other. But the power of a modern phone goes beyond its network. Both rebels and government soldiers have used their phones to take pictures and videos of the conflict, a digital record of fighting from both sides.
See the full article (Reuters, Nick Carey, 8/23/11)
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Why Tech Is Key to the U.S. State Department's Mission
It's clear that digital tools and social innovation now play a crucial role in national affairs, elections and international diplomacy. The Arab spring saw popular uprisings coordinated and fueled by social networks. WikiLeaks has blurred the line between cyber crime and digital vigilantism by posting state and corporate secrets from sources all over the world.
See the full article (Mashable, Zachary Sniderman, 8/23/11)
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Conflict Minerals in the Congo: Let's Be Frank About Dodd-Frank
On Aug 7, freelance journalist and blogger David Aronson published an important opinion piece in the New York Times on the effects and ramifications of the Dodd-Frank Act. The op-ed has unleashed a healthy, robust, and at times acrimonious debate online about the meaning of this legislation. Blogs are beaming with commentary and the Enough Project has been on the defensive with a response in the Huffington Post by Sasha Lezhnev.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Mvemba Dizolele, 8/22/11)
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U.S. Providing Iraq With Phone, SMS Monitoring Devices
A U.S. military official says Washington will provide Iraqi authorities with technology to monitor and record phone calls and phone-text messages with the aim of preventing terrorist attacks. Geoffrey Buchanan, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, told RFI a deal was signed with Iraq's Interior Ministry to provide it with the new technology. He said the agreement is part of an Iraqi training program.
See the full article (RFE/RL, 8/21/11)
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Boeing Tests Submarine Drone off Santa Catalina Island
An 18-foot, bright-yellow submarine drone is being tested off the coast of Santa Catalina Island for possible use by the U.S. military to stalk enemy waters, patrol local harbors for national security threats and scour ocean floors to detect environmental hazards. Although robotic aircraft already play a critical role in modern warfare, taking out insurgents with missile strikes in the skies above Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the same robotic revolution hasn't taken place in the world's oceans.
See the full article (Los Angeles Times, W. J. Hennigan, 8/19/11)
Click to read "The Kabul Courts and Conciliators: Mediating Cases in Urban Afghanistan," a USIP Peace Brief by Zuhal Nesari and Karima Tawfik.
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China Rules the Rare Earth
Asia is at the centre of an inevitable development of our digital world: the coming mineral wars. The computer you are using to read this article is already involved in a global war. Oil wars? Water wars? Sure - they will continue to define the geopolitics of the early 21st century. But in high-technology terms, nothing compares with the coming mineral wars. And the name of the game is rare earth.
See the full article (Al Jazeera, Pepe Escobar, 8/19/11)
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Arab Spring Raises Hopes of Rebirth for Mideast Science
Egyptian chemist Ahmed Zewail first proposed building a $2 billion science and technology institute in Cairo 12 years ago, just after he won a Nobel Prize. Then-President Hosni Mubarak promptly approved the plan and awarded Zewail the Order of the Nile, Egypt's highest honour. Within months, the cornerstone was laid in a southern Cairo suburb for a "science city" due to open in five years. But while Zewail, who has taught at Caltech in California since 1976, went on to collect more awards and honorary doctorates abroad, his pet project got mired in a jungle of bureaucracy and corruption. But with revolution now sweeping the Middle East, Egypt's ruling military council and interim civilian government gave the project the green light in June. Supporters hail the decision as a positive step towards a new, more modern Middle East.
See the full article (Reuters, Tom Heneghan and Sami Aboudi, 8/18/11)
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We Are Not Vigilantes: A Chat With the Founder of Zavilia, a Crowdsource Tool For ID'ing Rioters Through Photos
Social media isn't just great for starting "social unrest," it's proving to be quite helpful for quashing it too. Not long after the bricks began to fly in London's latest kerfuffle, locals angry over raging mobs scrambled to assist the police in their attempt to identify street-fighters and free-for-all hooligans. Now with more than 1,000 people charged over the chaos, a few citizen groups continue to provide web-based rioter identification platforms, in hopes of being good subjects, maintaining the country's pursuit of order, and keeping their neighborhoods safe.
See the full article (Motherboard, Kimberly Haddad, 8/18/11)
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