USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, August 16 - 22, 2012

Table of Contents

SEC Adopts Rules on 'Conflict Minerals' Vital to Manufacturing
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday voted 3-2 to adopt a controversial rule requiring new disclosures by public companies regarding their use of so-called "conflict minerals" mined in war-torn Central Africa that are essential to the manufacture of high-tech devices and other products. Lawmakers want to reduce the use of key minerals -- gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum -- as a source of financing for armies battling in the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring countries.
See the full article (Los Angeles Times, Jim Puzzanghera, 8/22/12)
Click to read "Instability in the DRC ," a USIP On the Issues by Raymond Gilpin and Brett Boor.
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Are Drone Strikes Worth the Costs?
American drones have launched five airstrikes in the past five days in the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that drones are a useful and effective way of combating the likes of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, especially in remote terrain and difficult warscapes. Get in, gather the intel, launch a surgical strike, get out, no troops lost. But security analysts and scholars say the debate on drones is far from clear and far from over.
See the full article (International Herald Tribune, Mark McDonald, 8/22/12)
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U.S. Intelligence Tests Crowd-sourcing against its Experts
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is running a four-year, $50-million program that pays people willing to predict major world events, including wars and terrorist strikes. The study, known as Aggregative Contingent Estimation, is designed to see whether the 17 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community can aggregate the judgment of its thousands of analysts to issue more accurate warnings to policy makers before and during major global events.
See the full article (Los Angeles Times, Ken Dilanian, 8/21/12)
Click to read "Food Security and Data Workshop: Can Better Data-sharing Enhance Impact?," a USIP News Feature by Andrew Robertson.
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More Telltale Signs of Cyber Spying and Cyber Attacks Arise in Middle East
More evidence has surfaced that the Middle East has become a cyberspace free-fire zone. Saudi Arabia's national oil company, Saudi Aramco, confirms reports that its computer networks were shut down last week by a malware attack. The new software attack weapon, dubbed Shamoon by cybersecurity researchers, is the most recent in a series of attacks targeting key infrastructure in the Middle East region.
See the full article (Christian Science Monitor, Mark Clayton, 8/21/12)
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New Kickstarter Pitch: 'Join the Syrian Uprising'
Two veterans of last year's Libya conflict have put together a Kickstarter project to fund what they call a "groundbreaking and unique film" about the Syria rebels - and it's a hair's breath away from using the online crowdfunding service to fund the resistance to Bashar Assad. Is this a Kickstarter to crowdfund the revolution or to crowdfund a film about the revolution?
See the full article (Wired, Spencer Ackerman, 8/21/12)
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US Drone Strikes Target Rescuers in Pakistan - and the West Stays Silent
The US government has long maintained, reasonably enough, that a defining tactic of terrorism is to launch a follow-up attack aimed at those who go to the scene of the original attack to rescue the wounded and remove the dead. Morally, such methods have also been widely condemned by the west as a hallmark of savagery. Yet, as was demonstrated yet again this weekend in Pakistan, this has become one of the favorite tactics of the very same US government.
See the full article (Guardian, Glenn Greenwald, 8/20/12)
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Tech Companies Make Progress on 'Blood Phones' and 'Conflict Minerals'
They've been called "blood phones." It's a reference to the fact that some metals used to make smartphones and other electronic gadgets are sourced from war-torn areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But according to a report released Thursday, metals from the Congo are getting less bloody. That's thanks in part to the fact that tech companies like Intel, HP, Dell, Microsoft and Apple have made efforts to trace the source of metals used in their devices.
See the full article (CNN, John D. Sutter, 8/16/12)
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Syrian Rebels Put Captured Iranian Drones on YouTube
Chalk up another victory for the social-media prowess of the Syrian rebels. The opposition to Bashar Assad says it's captured spy drones made by Assad's patron, Iran. And it's put the evidence on YouTube. In the video above, Syrian rebels show off three smallish, unarmed surveillance drones they say they downed captured from a regime "drone factory." It's yet more evidence that Iran considers Syria's civil war to be a proxy contest with much at stake for their influence in the region.
See the full article (Wired, Spencer Ackerman, 8/16/12)
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