The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has offered a glimpse into its Z-Man Program, which is currently testing a material that allows humans to scale walls with the aid of climbing paddles. The project was inspired by the biological properties of geckos, whose toes allow the animal to hang by a single toe from nearly any surface. In the future, U.S. warfighters will be able to scale any wall while carrying a full combat load.
With each advancing year, more novel information technology is brought online, simultaneously advancing societal capabilities and dependence on new and legacy systems in areas as diverse as healthcare, finance, entertainment, defense, and critical infrastructure. Despite unceasing news of cyber attacks and various exploits that appear to strike into the nervous system of modern society, many information technology companies continue their long pattern of outsourcing risk, since—it is thought—building technology with security first in mind may make it harder to bring to market or less profitable.
Getting the story out can be a dangerous enterprise. Journalists throughout the world go about their profession in a climate of repression and coercion, often risking their lives in the effort to inform, to get out a compelling video, the narrative, the testimony, the tweet. In some parts of the world, governments and radical groups make it their highest priority to prevent the spread of information and deny citizens the basic right to know.
Big Data, the analysis of huge datasets using sophisticated algorithms, holds huge promise. One of the most-cited examples, Google Flu Trends predicts flu outbreaks based on the search terms from users in a given region. However, the quality of data used has been criticized as a key weaknesses of Big Data. The idea behind Big Data usage currently is that the datasets are so massive that the quality of the data does not matter. That assumption is now being challenged.
Much has been said in the press of the dreaded threat of ‘cyber warfare’, but little detail or clarity has given dimension to this threat of sinister activity. Comments from the UK’s Secretary of State for Defence Phillip Hammond such as, “It’s a new capability… we should explore the boundaries of it,” do little to reassure us that world politicians are imbued with the necessary understanding of this emerging threat. It is necessary for governments to recognize and fully understand the consequences of this hazard, so they can proactively formulate sanctions and policy that need to be developed by the international community.
Current U.S. leadership emphasizes the need for collective action to face today’s transnational security matters. At the CNAS National Security Conference on June 11, 2014, National Security Advisor Susan Rice gave a keynote address that focused on just that: global alliances and mobilizing coalitions. Rice asserted that when the United States encourages collective action, “we deliver outcomes that are more legitimate, more sustainable, and less costly.”
Just over one year ago, Glenn Greenwald’s NSA surveillance article in The Guardian shocked the U.S. public and the world. Disclosures of documents and court orders (e.g., Verizon) provided by Edward Snowden, then a Booz Allen Hamilton employee, revealed the scope of NSA spying and introduced the term “metadata” into the public consciousness. Metadata refers to the “envelope” of a phone call or internet communication, which usually includes location information. For a phone call, metadata includes call duration, phone numbers, and time of day; for an email, this includes the sender, the recipient, and time of day, but not the subject or content. [For a complete timeline of the NSA scandal’s unfolding, see this BBC piece.]
Economic growth in the Philippines is among the highest in Asia, with 5.9 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Unfortunately though, the bulk of the financial benefits associated with this growth continue to escape the majority of Filipinos living in poverty. According to the most recent estimates from The World Bank, 26.5 percent of the Filipino population is living in poverty. This high rate of economic disparity remains one of the largest factors driving many Filipinos into human trafficking situations. Despite recent economic advancements, the Philippines continue to be one of the largest source countries for sex trafficking and forced labor victims around the world.
As the Syrian civil war enters its 36th month, it is becoming clearer that the conflict is spilling into neighboring states. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad has been waging a bloody war with Sunni insurgents. Assad is an Alawite Muslim, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Syrian Government has become dependent on religious allies for support, and Sunni fundamentalist groups have become the strongest opposition. Iran and Hezbollah have actively backed their long-term ally in the Assad government, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar have supported the Sunni rebels. The war has morphed into a larger fight between Sunnis and Shiites that has spread into neighboring countries, and has the potential to ignite a wider conflict across the entire region.
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