News Roundup Archive

Thursday, November 13, 2014

PeaceTech News Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


PeaceTech Roundup
Weekly News Highlights, November 6-12, 2014


Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

Family of Reporter Slain By ISIS Sets Up Scholarship For Aspiring Journalists
The family of Steven Sotloff, the journalist who was beheaded by a member of ISIS, has established a foundation to provide scholarships for journalism students. The 2Lives Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation will "provide scholarships for journalism and liberal arts students who have the passion, skills and desire to follow in Steven's footsteps and pursue careers in journalism - particularly to tell the stories of people in conflict-torn regions around the world," according to its mission statement.
See the full article (Haaretz, 11/12/14, JTA)
Click to read, "Risk for Diplomats, Aid Workers in Conflict Zones: Setting the Bar" an Olive Branch Post by Linwood Ham.
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Can Mesh Networks And Offline Wireless Move From Protest Tools To News?
From the protests in Hong Kong to Occupy and Sandy in New York, a new generation of tools is allowing communities to connect without using the Internet. Can they have a use in news too? Globally, stopping or restricting digital communications has become a very real threat in recent years, from Egypt's 2011 Internet shutdown to Turkey's DNS restrictions. Historically, news organizations have sought to protect themselves from the vagaries of economics and third-party suppliers by investing considerably in both production and distribution infrastructure. Still, for all its potential for community information and organization, it's hard to know what the news audience might be for this kind of hyperlocal network.
See the full article (Nieman Lab, 11/10/14, Susan McGregor)
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Laughing At The Humourless
As America and allied forces carry out air strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq, artists from Beirut to Baghdad are combating the group in their own way. Al Iraqiya, a state television channel in Iraq, has devoted $600,000-a record amount for the broadcaster-to produce "Dawlat al-Khurafa" ("The Mythical State"), which mockingly recreates the IS takeover and rule of a fictional village in Iraq. The show's offensive opening, in which Mr Baghdadi hatches as the offspring of the devil and his bride Israel, has had more than 750,000 hits on YouTube.
See the full article (The Economist, 11/8/14)
Click to read, "Iraqi Youth in TV Reality Show Support Each Other Amid Crisis" an Olive Branch Post by Viola Gienger.
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'Wave South Sudan' Promotes Unity, Peace Via Social Media
Manasseh Mathiang wants South Sudanese to post pictures of themselves waving the nation's flag on Facebook and Twitter as part of the 'Wave South Sudan' peace campaign. As a musician, 30-year-old Manaseh Mathiang often uses his craft to bring people together for positive reasons, perhaps to dance and sing along to his music. But Mathiang launched a new social media initiative for a more sobering reason: he has lost several family members during the conflict in South Sudan, and says his #wavesouthsudan project is a call to his fellow countrymen and women to move beyond the past and unite for the common good.
See the full article (Voice of America, 11/7/14, Mugume Davis Rwakaringi)
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How Social Media Is Changing Dynamics In Conflict Reporting
In an age where ISIS has its own YouTube channel, and eyewitness reports often hit Twitter before mainstream media, social media has fundamentally changed the dynamics of conflict reporting. "Social media is affecting how we as journalists gather information and how we report on it," noted Anne-Marie Tomchak. "It's affecting how groups disseminate their message and how they gain support. But it's also affecting how people share information, and how they share misinformation."
See the full article (, 11/6/14, Abigail Edge)
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The sloppy, pop-humanitarian coverage of the Boko Haram cease-fire-that-wasn't isn't just bad journalism -- it's a missed opportunity. A phone call or two, or even a few clicks around the web, probably should have been enough to realize how flimsy the story about the cease-fire was. There is no solid information on how many girls remain in Boko Haram's possession. Journalists have an important responsibility in these situations. It's not about applauding little steps toward peace in an attempt to reach it. It's about giving all available information to audiences, and giving it in context, even if that means casting doubt on a hopeful moment -- and especially then.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, 11/6/14, Lauren Wolfe)
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Featured Story from the USIP Foreign Policy Peace Channel

America's Last Best Hope for Defeating the Islamic State Is... Iran? by Emad Kiyaei
When President Barack Obama's secret missive to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was leaked to the media, the reactions were predictable: Israel was furious. Saudi Arabia was livid. And Mitt Romney was dumfounded. But U.S. firepower alone can't defeat the Islamic State. It needs to work with Iran, whether it likes it or not. What are the core mutual interests of two adversaries embroiled in an essentially noxious diplomatic relationship for more than three decades? At the top of the list are regional stability and the "war on terrorism."
See the full article

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Technology and Science

What Impact Will Emerging Technologies Have on Geopolitics?
Four geopolitical questions we can't avoid when we think about emerging technologies: will technology be the future gold; will we transcend cultures; what about political representation, Big Brother, and so forth; and will we stop talking? Technology might significantly increase the level of predictability and understanding between diplomats - making dialogue and negotiation smoother than ever - which could ultimately lead to a qualitative progress in conflict resolution. If transnational challenges continue to have a predominant role in inter-state relations how will we use technology to solve conflicts?
See the full article (Scientific American, 11/12/14, Fred Guterl)
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Science & Tech Pivotal For Peace, Uplift: Minister
World Science Day for Peace & Development (WSDPD) was celebrated on Monday at Pakistan Science Foundation. Federal Minister for Science & Technology Zahid Hamid, while talking to the audience, designated this day very special and regarded science & technology pivotal for international peace and development. "The present government under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is well aware of the importance of scientific education in the country and this is the reason that present government has given special emphasis over S&T education in Vision 2025 and is initiating projects worth billions of rupees, which would prove instrumental for our national development," he added.
See the full article (The Nation, 11/11/14)
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Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom To Kill
Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch.
See the full article (New York Times, 11/11/14, John Markoff) *New York Times Subscription may be required to read the full article
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This West Point-Trained Intelligence Officer Went Through Two Conflict Zones To Reach The Startup Scene
Transitioning into civilian life, Patrick Ryan is making a career promoting startups that develop the powerful and specialized software he wishes he'd had as an intelligence officer in Iraq. His means to help the US make the best out of a problematic situation in Iraq while deployed were limited. He was using Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Earth to help map his team's sense of interpersonal and tribal relations, learn where local favor could be won, and try to predict where and when the next deadly attack might unfold. But several companies were then in the process of creating better battlefield software that was attuned to the challenges of the post-9/11 period. It was an an emerging corner of the tech industry, and one that Ryan has now found success working in.
See the full article (Business Insider, 11/11/14, Pierre Bienaime)
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Study Links Hot Weather To Violent Conflict In Africa
Analysis of violent events in the past 30 years in sub-Saharan Africa reveals a link to high temperatures, a new study finds. However, the researchers say the impact of climate is less important than many other social and economic factors. There is limited evidence of a direct link, partly because there are so many political, social and economic factors involved in conflict. In its recent synthesis report, the IPCC says there is "medium confidence" that climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflict by amplifying poverty and economic shocks.
See the full article (The Carbon Brief, 11/10/14, Robert McSweeney)
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Sorry, But Technology Alone Can't Help Us Build A Better World
Sometimes, when tech VIPs get together to opine about "the future," the ambition goes a little over-the-top. On the other hand, if you're going to go there, why not swing for the fences? Such was the case on Sunday night at Techonomy, a gathering of tech CEOs, startup entrepreneurs, scientists, and assorted big thinkers put on by veteran tech journalist David Kilpatrick. The question of the evening was: "Can tech bring equality and peace?" Given the high profiles of the panelists assembled to entertain an answer, you could almost be forgiven for thinking they were going to come up with a definitive yes-or-no.
See the full article (Wired, 11/10/14, Marcus Wohlsen)
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