USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, August 25 - 31, 2011

Table of Contents

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Pakistan to Ban Encryption Software
Millions of internet users in Pakistan will be unable to send emails and messages without fear of government snooping after authorities banned the use of encryption software. A legal notice sent to all internet providers (ISPs) by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, seen by the Guardian, orders the ISPs to inform authorities if any of their customers are using virtual private networks (VPNs) to browse the web.
See the full article (Guardian, Josh Halliday and Saeed Shah, 8/30/11)
Click to read "Optimism and Obstacles in India-Pakistan Peace Talks," a USIP Peace Brief by Stephanie Flamenbaum and Megan Neville.
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Intell Agency's Software would Predict World Events
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is seeking technology that can help intelligence analysts predict global events such as mass migrations, disease outbreaks, economic instability and natural disasters. "The [Open Source Indicators Program's] methods, if proven successful, could provide early warnings of emerging events around the world," said Jason Matheny, OSI program manager at IARPA, in a press release. IARPA is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
See the full article (GCN, Kathleen Hickey, 8/29/11)
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The Cloud in Egypt: Help or Hype?
"The last ten years torture became systematic. So I thought, why not plot these violations on a map?" says Abdelrahman Hassan. The 31-year-old programmer is part of the Egyptian tech savvy youth who finding digital solutions to his country's problems. We catch him on the way back from Smart Village, a cybercity in the western suburbs of Cairo.
See the full article (, Tanja Aitamurto, 8/29/11)
Click to read about USIP's Universities for Ushahidi (U4U) training event that was attended by Abdelrahman Hassan.
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Suspected North Korean Cyberattack on a Bank Raises Fears for S. Korea, Allies
After nearly half of the servers for a South Korean bank crashed one day in April, investigators here found evidence indicating that they were dealing with a new kind of attack from an old rival: North Korea. South Korean officials said that 30 million customers of the Nonghyup agricultural bank were unable to use ATMs or online services for several days. But even more troubling was the prospect that a belligerent neighbor had acquired the tools to disrupt one of the world's most heavily wired nations - and that even more damaging attacks could be in store.
See the full article (Washington Post, Chico Harlan and Ellen Nakashima, 8/29/11)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event, "Monopoly of Force: The Relationship between DDR and SSR in Post-Conflict" on September 12 at 1:30pm.
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Scientists Man Bioterror Front Lines Post-9/11
For decades, federal research labs like Lawrence Livermore had served as the government's Cold War research and development division. After Sept. 11, those same labs transformed themselves to invent new lines of defense against new terror threats, developing a nationwide system to sniff the air for germs such as anthrax and smallpox. Government researchers created the airborne pathogen early warning system known as Biowatch that is now deployed in about 30 cities across the country and has become a hidden fixture in the country's post-September 11, 2001, urban landscape.
See the full article (AP, Marcus Wohlsen, 8/29/11)
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The Revolution in Unmanned Aircraft Is Overrated
In the ten years since the 9-11 attacks, remotely-piloted aircraft have become the signature weapons of America's global war on terrorists. However, the notion that human pilots have no future on the modern battlefield finds few takers among military professionals. They see the value of unmanned aircraft but they also see the limitations.
See the full article (Forbes, Loren Thompson, 8/29/11)
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Western Technology Helping Curb Middle East Dissent
Computers loaded with Western-made surveillance software generated transcripts wielded in interrogations described by Al Khanjar and scores of other detainees whose similar treatment was tracked by rights activists. "The technology is becoming very sophisticated, and the only thing limiting it is how deeply governments want to snoop into lives," says Rob Faris, research director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
See the full article (The Peninsula, Vernon Silver and Ben Elgin, 8/28/11)
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Study Proves Climate a Trigger for Conflict
Climate shift has at times been fingered as a culprit in triggering conflict, fuelling for instance the 1789 French Revolution by wrecking harvests and driving hungry peasants to the city. Evidence to back the theory has often been contested as sketchy or anecdotal, but the case has been boosted by the first scientific study to declare an unmistakable link between climate fluctuations and violence.
See the full article (AFP, 8/25/11)
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Unfiltered Images, Turning Perceptions Upside Down
Harun Farocki's film and video work is almost too interesting to be art. The fascinating subject matter of "Serious Games I-IV," the main attraction in "Harun Farocki: Images of War (at a Distance)" at the Museum of Modern Art, would warrant a straightforward documentary. It deals with video-game technology used to train soldiers in practices of high-tech modern warfare.
See the full article (New York Times, Ken Johnson, 8/25/11) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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