USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, May 3 - 9, 2012

Table of Contents

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Tech, Tactics Ramp Up Pressure on Militant Groups
Despite quietly dropping the phrase "war on terror", when it comes to battling worldwide militant networks the success of the United States and its allies goes well beyond the killing of Osama bin Laden. Key to Western success against terror groups, experts say, is the much greater computing power and more sophisticated analytical tools available to intelligence services -- coupled with the much greater volume of data and clues that militants themselves often leave behind them in the information age.
See the full article (Reuters, Peter Apps, 5/8/12)
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Game Over - How Sanctions and Violence Doomed Syria's Gaming Industry
"Life for Syrian game developers has never been better," joked Falafel Games founder Radwan Kasmiya in an e-mail to Ars Technica. "You can test the action on the streets and get back to your desktop to script it on your keyboard." The country once looked like a future technology hub, with its centralized location [among] MENA countries allowing it to easily draw programming and engineering talent. But that promise has been effectively squashed, first by global economic sanctions and then by more than a year of bloody civil conflict.
See the full article (Ars Technica, Andrew Groen, 5/6/12)
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A Dam on the Mekong: Opening the Floodgates
What looked like an admittedly temporary reprieve for the swift currents and extraordinary biodiversity of the Mekong river is now over. [A] Thai construction giant contracted to build a $3.8 billion dam at Xayaburi has [announced] that dam construction officially began on March 15th. Perhaps Cambodia will file a complaint against Laos in an international court. More likely, local residents might have no choice but to use sit-ins and other obstructions in order to shut down the Mekong "friendship bridges" between Thailand and Laos.
See the full article (Economist, 5/5/12)
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New Rage Keeps Somali Boys off Street: Video Games
Video games are the new rage in Somalia, a first-world entertainment option for teenage boys that wasn't permitted when ultraconservative al-Shabab militants controlled the capital. The insurgents - who were pushed out of Mogadishu last year by African Union and Somali troops - banned recreational pleasures like movies and Nintendo. With the militants gone, Somali teens and boys are bingeing on entertainment systems like Sony's PlayStation, a development with both positive and negative aspects.
See the full article (AP, Abdi Guled, 5/4/12)
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John Brennan Should Tell the Whole Truth about the Drone Strikes
On Monday, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan publicly addressed the U.S. use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists in countries with which the United States is not at war, like Yemen and Pakistan. The fact that Brennan publicly addressed the drone strikes is a significant improvement. But John Brennan didn't tell the whole truth about the drone strikes. Not only do "signature strikes" increase the risk of killing civilians, their existence is crucial to the question of whether the drone strikes are legal.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Robert Naiman, 5/4/12)
Click to read "Fixing Pakistan's Civil-Military Imbalance: A Dangerous Temptation," a USIP Peace Brief by Moeed Yusuf.
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Western Technology in Oppressive Regimes
Much of the hardware and software used by oppressive regimes to monitor foreign dissidents is manufactured in the west. Margaret Coker, Middle East Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, talks about President Obama's recent Executive Order banning the sale of this technology to Iran and Syria.
See the full article (NPR, 5/4/12)
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