USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, October 17 - 23, 2013

Table of Contents

Online Mapping Aims to Stop Harassment of Women in Egypt
A nonprofit startup is trying to stop the pervasive harassment of women in Egypt using a revolutionary tool – the Internet. Tech startup HarassMap is taking a stand against harassment through one of the few places free speech remains relatively uncensored – the Internet. Since 2010, victims have been able to text, tweet, or email the company to report assaults when they happen. HarassMap responds with advice on how to get help and posts the reported details to its site on a Google Map.
See the full article (Christian Science Monitor, 10/23/13)
Click to read about USIP’s upcoming event “Men, Peace, and Security Symposium: Agents of Change,” on October 28, 2013 at 9:00am.
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An App for War: Crowd-sourcing Scud Missile Launch Notifications
As Dlshad Othman, a 27-year-old software engineer and Internet activist, addressed a crowd of technologists in a downtown New York hotel Monday, the phone in his pocket was collecting urgent alerts from a world away, in his native Syria. The automated emails were sent by a website that tracks the trajectory of Scud missiles fired from the outskirts of Damascus toward rebel-held areas in the north of the country.
See the full article (NBC, James Novogrod, 10/23/13)
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US Drone Strike Killings in Pakistan and Yemen 'Unlawful'
CIA drone attacks in Pakistan are responsible for unlawful killings, some of which could amount to war crimes, Amnesty International says. Amnesty said it reviewed nine recent drone strikes in North Waziristan and found a number of victims were unarmed. In a separate report looking at six US attacks in Yemen, Human Rights Watch says two of them killed civilians at random, violating international law.
See the full article (BBC, Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller 10/22/13)
Click to read "Pakistan Prime Minister’s U.S. Visit: Essential Ties, Difficult Issues" an Olive Branch Post by Moeed Yusuf.
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New Army Website Looks To The Crowd For Innovative Ideas
When it comes to solving technical and logistical problems, the military isn’t known for rapid innovation. In the Army, the research, development and acquisition phase can take up to two years for a new piece of equipment. There are strengths to this methodical and exhaustive process, but it often leaves out the end-user: soldiers.
See the full article (Forbes, Rebecca Ruiz, 10/22/13)
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Drone Strikes Killing More Civilians Than U.S. Admits, Human Rights Groups Say
Two influential human rights groups say they have freshly documented dozens of civilian deaths in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, contradicting assertions by the Obama administration that such casualties are rare. In Yemen, Human Rights Watch investigated six selected airstrikes since 2009 and concluded that at least 57 of the 82 people killed were civilians, including a pregnant woman and three children who perished in a September 2012 attack.
See the full article (Washington Post, Craig Whitlock, 10/22/13)
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Today’s Complex Data Can Help Predict the Future’s War Zones
For much of the past decade, Afghanistan’s remote Faizabad district remained out of the Taliban’s reach. But the northeastern region has become a target for violence—and according to a new predictive model, Faizabad could get dicey by mid-2014. Led by Penn State political scientist Philip Schrodt, a team of researchers developed the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone to scrape news from the Internet — the BBC, yes, but also hyperlocal sources around the world — and catalog events from village elections to genocide. Then data scientists can mine it to produce forecasts, based on short- and long-term trends, that could potentially be used by aid agencies to prepare for crises.
See the full article (Wired, Jonathan Keats, 10/21/13)
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Google Unveils Tools to Access Web From Repressive Countries
Google Ideas, the New York City–based “think/do tank” run by the Internet search giant, is launching several new technologies designed to highlight hacker attacks around the world and help people in repressive regimes access the Internet. The new products, which are being announced on Monday at the Google Ideas Summit in New York City, represent the most substantial offerings delivered by the three-year-old Google policy unit and could be a major boon to activists and reformers in the world’s most closed and repressive societies.
See the full article (New York Times, Jenna Wortham, 10/19/13)
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Seeking Online Refuge From Spying Eyes
These developments, among others, have spurred the creation of a handful of applications and services intended to give people respite and refuge from surveillance, both online and off. They have a simple and common goal: to create ways for people to use the Internet and to communicate online without surveillance. Nadim Kobeissi, a security adviser in Montreal who works on an encrypted-message service called Cryptocat, said the security and hacker circles of which he is a part have long suspected that the government is listening in on online conversations and exchanges but “have never been able to prove it.”
See the full article (New York Times, Jenna Wortham, 10/19/13)
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