Who would have thought that math club members in high school would have turned out to be the next counter-terrorism superheros? Anything that keeps our blossoming police state from bearing more fruit deserves widespread attention and support.
New models to dismantle terrorist networks, set to make current (and, some would say, not working) ones obsolete, have been put forth by ultra-high-level mathematicians at the New England Complex Systems Institute. Luckily for us mere mortals, no numbers are required to understand how their mathematical improvements can keep us safer, cheaper and less pervasively.
They published their breakthroughs in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, what all the cool kids are reading these days. In laymen's terms, their new counter-terrorism strategy goes something like this.
Terrorist networks today are taken on as whole through a series of short-term battles. Think of trying to go after Osama bin Laden here, then there, then there, and still never finding him while killing lots of innocent people in several host countries along the way. (Note: Apparently, this method has also been superseded by the U.S. giving $2 billion in military aid to the Pakistani so they can do it themselves.)
What these magician-mathematicians have shown is that it is much, much more effective and less resource-intensive to isolate hubs within a terrorist network rather than try to eliminate them, which goes against centuries of military strategy, including the one currently used to pursue Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups globally. This math-based counter-terrorism strategy is also much less pervasive than its predecessors.
Philip Vos Fellman, an expert in mathematical modeling and strategy, explains that "the nature of a dynamic [terrorist] network is akin to the robust Internet but contrasts starkly with the structure of the armed forces or homeland security systems, which tend to be centralized and hierarchical." His sophisticated computer simulations of real-world terrorist networks show that isolation rather than removal of terrorist cells is the key to successfully defeating terrorists networks as a whole.
Then again, those math club members in high school could also have gone on to be the next software multi-billionaire software developers. But where is the glory in that?
Photo Credit: trindade.joao
Posted by Antony Adolf on October 26, 2010 at 11:25 AM in Conflict Resolution, Critical Theory, Culture, Current Events, Peace, Policy, Science, Technology, Terrorism, U.S., War and Conflicts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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We're all familiar with conspiracy theories about UFOs and little green men in human suits controlling the world, like in the cutesy movie Men in Black. Seriously though, according to a group of U.S. military airmen who recently held a press conference in Washington D.C., not only are the otherworldly protagonists of these seemingly far-fetched stories true, they have had an incalculably positive impact on humanity by preventing us from annihilating ourselves and our planet with nuclear weapons.
"The U.S. Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it," they affirmed. According to over 120 military personal, by renowned researcher (or total crackpot, depending on your perspective) Robert Hastings' count, since 1948 extraterrestrials in spaceships have not only been visiting Earth but hovering over British and American nuclear missile sites and temporarily deactivating the nuclear weapons, as LiveScience reports.
Strangely, the U.S. Air Force's response did not deny their intergalactic peacekeeping and nuclear disarmament theory. Officials simply referred to the Air Force Project Blue Book, which investigated UFO sightings between 1947 and 1969. The passage most pertinent to the military personnel's claims reads: "No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.” This statement still leaves open the possibility that national security, and global security for that matter, could have been aided thereby. But I have a different theory.
For me, whether or not aliens exist and exert influence on our planet, as a metaphor for the absolute other in whose face humanity unites and solves our common problems or face their judgment, they reign supreme. They can also stand for the actual tens of thousands of peace and nuclear disarmament activists worldwide who have genuinely been considered aliens by their antagonists despite what they have helped achieve, namely the survival of humanity and all life on earth. That the debt the world owes them remains widely unrecognized is truly out of this world. The universal peacebuilding mission of the Federation of Planets in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek never seemed so (im)plausible.
In the words of science writer, not science fiction writer, Benjamin Radford, "UFO folklore and reports - especially from the 1960s and 1970s - often contained supposed messages from our peace-loving and ecologically aware space brothers warning us quarrelsome and destructive earthlings to treat the planet better and seek world peace. That is undoubtedly good advice (regardless of whether its origin is terrestrial or extraterrestrial) though if Hastings and his colleagues are right, the aliens - if they exist - may have everything under control." How about getting everything under control ourselves?
Photo Credit: [F]oxymoron
Posted by Antony Adolf on October 19, 2010 at 11:25 AM in Americas, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Current Events, Europe, History, Peacekeeping, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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"October 1st marks 18 years since the U.S. Senate approved President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START. It also marks the 300th day since that treaty expired, cutting off U.S. weapons inspectors' access to Russian nuclear sites. Conservatives in the Senate are now blocking the restart of Reagan's inspections." So begins a recent article by Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which invests in peace and security around the globe. The irony is not lost to anyone.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee were to vote in mid-September on whether to send the new START Treaty to the Senate floor for ratification. The START Treaty passed that test, to Obama's approval, but it most likely won't be thought of until after the consequential mid-term elections in November, if then at all. The treaty would cut US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads by about one-third, to 1,550 each.
Since the original START Treaty expired, on-site monitoring of Russia's nuclear weapons and facilities was suspended, to say nothing of those of the U.S. Now that it's open knowledge that Russia is giving Iran nuclear materials, you would think that the U.S. Congress would show a bit more urgency and concern. In addition to removing hundreds of warheads from US and Russian nuclear arsenals and renewing and enhancing verification protocols, "New START" would also help improve cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism, a vital international security priority.
Will the U.S. Congress suddenly realize what is at stake in ratifying the START Treaty and permit a floor vote? Kevin Martin, the leader of Peace Action, says "the New START is a modest step forward toward the realization the President Obama's goal (and ours!) of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. It's a step that should be taken without further delay so the administration can begin work on the steps that must follow." It is that, but it is also a dangerous election-year gamble which no politician, especially conservative ones, can afford to lose.
So doing nothing makes sense for them and them only, even if it puts domestic and global security at risk. Please continue to contact U.S. Senators and ask them to support the New Start Treaty. Call 202-224-3121, or write your Senators at: US Senate, Washington DC 20510; or email them at Senate.gov. Your vote this November can make a world of difference.
Posted by Antony Adolf on September 30, 2010 at 11:31 AM in Conflict Resolution, Culture, Current Events, Diplomacy, Economics, History, International Relations, Obama, Peace, Peacekeeping, Policy, Politics, Technology, U.S., War and Conflicts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Conservatives, Disarmament, Global Security, Iran, Joe Cirincione, National Security, New Start Treaty, November Elections, Nuclear Weapons, Ploughshares Fund, Russia, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, START Treaty, U.S.
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By Rosalind Sanders
Scientists at the American Institute of Physics are seeking to identify superior light-catching substances in order to better transform more of the sun's power into carbon-free electric power. And their learned labors are now bearing fruit that could change the way the world gets its energy forever: cheaper, faster and less harmfully to the environment.
A new study in Applied Physics Letters (published by the American Institute of Physics) describes how solar energy could potentially be collected by using oxide materials that have the element selenium. A team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, inserted selenium in zinc oxide, a relatively low-priced component that could make more cost-efficient use of the sun's power.
The research team determined that even a relatively small level of selenium, just nine per-cent of the mostly zinc-oxide base, dramatically enhanced the material's performance in absorbing light.
The principal author of this analysis, Marie Mayer (a fourth-year College of California, Berkeley doctoral student) says that photo-electrochemical water splitting, that signifies employing energy from the sun to cleave water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, could potentially be the most revolutionary future application for her work. Using this reaction is key to the eventual creation of zero-emission hydrogen powered automobiles, which hypothetically will run only on water and sunlight.
The conversion effectiveness of a PV cell is the proportion of sunlight energy that the solar cell converts to electricity. This is very important when discussing Photovoltaic products, because boosting this efficiency is vital to making Pv electricity competitive with more standard sources of energy (e.g., fossil fuels).
For comparison, the very first Photovoltaic products converted about 1%-2% of sunlight power into electric energy. Today's Pv devices convert 7%-17% of light energy into electric power. Of course, the other side of the equation is the dollars it costs to make the PV devices. This has been reduced over the years as well. In fact, today's PV systems generate electricity at a fraction of the cost of first PV systems.
In the 1990s, when silicon cells were twice as thick, efficiencies were much smaller than today and lifetimes were reduced, it may well have cost more energy to produce a cell than it could generate in a lifetime. In the meantime, the technological know-how has progressed significantly, and the energy repayment time (defined as the recovery time required for generating the energy spent to produce the respective technical energy systems) of a modern photovoltaic module is normally from 1 to 4 years depending on the module type and location.
Normally, thin-film technologies - despite having comparatively low conversion efficiencies - obtain considerably shorter energy repayment times than standard systems (often < 1 year). With a normal lifetime of 20 to 30 years, this signifies that current solar cells are net energy producers, i.e. they generate significantly more energy over their lifetime than the energy expended in producing them.
Rosalind Sanders is the publisher of, and writes for, The Solar Panel Review, which focuses on helping homeowners reduce expenses with solar energy.
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Friends of the Arc (FOTA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization that believes that the Arc, developed by the RAND Corporation (a problematic sponsor, on which more below) and Suisman Urban Design, has the potential according to them "to ensure a viable Palestinian state and a Middle East that knows sustainable peace, prosperity, and security."
FOTA has announced a $1,000 prize for the best essay by a college or graduate student, in the form of a policy brief to President Barack Obama, on the topic of the usefulness of RAND Corporation’s Arc concept for the current Middle East peace negotiations.
According to RAND's website: "Palestine’s crumbling infrastructure presents a major challenge for a new Palestinian state. Yet it also provides an opportunity to plan for sustainable development and to avoid the environmental cost and economic inefficiencies of haphazard, unregulated urban development that might otherwise result from the need to accommodate a rapidly growing population. The Arc, RAND’s concept for developing the physical infrastructure of a Palestinian state, provides such a plan." More information about the Arc is available here.
Submissions should respond to the following prompt:
With the resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, many observers doubt that more purely political discussions will finally produce a comprehensive peace settlement; they suggest that some paradigm-changing idea is needed to break the deadlock. You have been asked to brief President Obama about the Arc project. Prepare a policy brief making the case that the Arc plan is just such a compelling idea, and that with U.S. support, it could help negotiators achieve a breakthrough for peace.
Submissions are due October 8, 2010, at 6 pm ET and should be no more than 1,000 words in length. Before crafting their submissions, participants should view the 30-minute Arc video and other resources at www.friendsofthearc.org. College and graduate students from any country are eligible to apply.
One World, Many Peaces deems it necessary to point out the RAND has close ties to the military, that the Arc project is being developed without the express consent of the Palestinian people, and that it is all-too remeniscent of the Soviet-style infrastructure development projects that brought so much of post-colonial Africa and Eastern Europe close to ruin. These could be topics for consideration for the peace writing contest.
We asked the contest's organizers how they resolve the paradox with the close military ties and this "peace" project, here is what they had to say:
"The RAND Corporation certainly has its origins in conducting studies and R&D (R&D is the origin of the name RAND) for the US Air Force. These days, it remains a publicly funded think tank for conducting studies and performing R&D. But, now its funding is much more diversified with over half of its funding going to topics such as health, education and development. The Arc study was actually privately financed by philanthropists interested in how development strategies could spur peace, prosperity and security in the Middle East. RAND, which brought on world renowned designer Doug Suisman through his urban design firm Suisman Urban Design, conducted the study to answer the questions posed by the sponsors – just as they do any other study. RAND only conducted a study. By charter, RAND cannot and does not advocate or implement. As such, RAND is not “helping negotiators achieve a breakthrough for peace”. But Friends of the Arc, which is a worldwide network of individuals who see the power of the Arc concept in inspiring peace, prosperity and security in the Middle East, is working to advocate the Arc as something that could help negotiators to a breakthrough for peace."
The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and will be featured on our website. FOTA reserves the right to post all essays on its website and to send one or more to President Obama. For all competition details, please visit www.friendsofthearc.org/essaycontest
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Most of us can't remember our childhood without at least passing thought of war-related games and toys, from action figures to first-person shooter videogames, to military strategy board games and beyond. But can you imagine what the world would be like now and can be in the future with next-generation game and toy makers taking up the cause of peace in their designs? Here are just a few fun examples for everyone:
A Force More Powerful: The Game of Nonviolent Strategy, by York Zimmerman Inc.: Remove corrupt regimes, secure the right to organize free trade unions, organize for women's rights and self determination for ethnic minorities, force an end to aggressive foreign policy, and hold free and fair elections in the groundbreaking peace videogame.
Give Peace a Chance 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle, by Aquarius: An awesome 1000-piece puzzle featuring beautiful peace images forming a mosaic peace sign, measures 20 x 27 when completed, full color with snug fitting pieces and 100% officially licensed merchandise.
PeaceMaker: Play the News. Solve the Puzzle (Mac or PC), by ImpactGames: Inspired by real events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using real news footage and images, two games in one: play both the role of the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President.
Decorate-Yourself Peace Sign Canvas, by DM Creations: Personalize your own artwork with this paint-your-own Peace Sign on canvas, includes painting guide, 12"x12" canvas, paints and paint brushes.
Conflict Resolution Game Theory, by Ichiro Nishizaki and Masatoshi Sakawa: Presents important concepts in noncooperative and cooperative games, advances in game theory in fuzzy and multiobjective environments, and several game representations and solution concepts. Also demonstrates the computational methods used to find these solutions.
However, it is important to keep in mind that few if any peace games and toys makers give a portion of their profits towards actual peacebuilding efforts. This could be take as a form of peace profiteering, similar to war profiteering, just as clothing manufactures like Gap and Victoria's Secret use the peace sign without paying any royalties or licensing to any peace organization. Still, wouldn't the world be a better place if future generations grew up playing with peace games and toys instead of war ones?
Technorati Tags: A Force More Powerful: The Game of Nonviolent Strategy York Zimmerman Inc., Aquarius, Conflict Resolution Game Theory, Decorate-Yourself Peace Sign Canvas, DM Creations, Gap, Give Peace a Chance 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle, Ichiro Nishizaki, ImpactGames, Mac, Masatoshi Sakawa, PC, Peace Clothing, Peace Games, Peace Profiteering, Peace Toys, Peace Videogames, PeaceMaker: Play the News Solve the Puzzle, Victoria's Secret
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"Panicked thinking was shared by many of us then, and it led to the kind of disastrous short-term actions that began to characterize the antiwar movement." So writes the legendary anti-Vietnam War, pro-women's liberation activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in her monumental memoir, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the few decades since her, her entourage and their supporters worldwide nonetheless made considerable headway in turning the tide of public opinion. Unfortunately, they and we have failed today even if we need not to in the future
The Afghanistan War is now the United State's longest military engagement, ever. The war in Iraq is rapidly approaching second place after it, too. The burst of anti-war energy that soon fizzled first in 2001 with the Afghan, then the so-called "Summer of Peace" with Iraq in 2003, has never been regained. This is not a eulogy, it's a reproach and recommendation to those who led and participated in those protests globally, thinking they would make a difference in doing so, then went back to their complacent daily lives and let the two wars continue, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
What is "panicking" in an anti-war context and why should it be stopped? Exactly what and why Dunbar-Ortiz claimed it is: disastrous short-term actions. What's so disastrous about panicking? Aside from that it has achieved absolutely nothing in regards to ending the wars, it has also alienated a lot of the people who would have otherwise worked to end it, while giving those who do it a false sense of accomplishment in the self-centered, self-satisfaction of acting like an angry teenager, or worse yet a two year old in their "terrible phase." As such, it needs to be stopped, but stopping without doing anything different would be like not stopping at all.
We propose two alternatives. First, thinking critically. Not in the sense of armchair philosophizing, but deeply scrutinizing the following, among other things: Why we want the wars to end; why others might want them to end too and why they should join us; it means learning from the long history of peace and anti-war activism dating back centuries, rather than reinventing the wheel; what has worked in the past and can be repeated effectively today; what has not worked in the past and should not be repeated today; how to take advantage of resources like social media that were not previously available; how to build bridges (not burn them) with related organizations. These last two bring us to the second alternative.
Start acting strategically. If there's an opposite to panicking, this is it. Anti-war strategizing includes planning in the short, medium and long terms; it takes the shape of coordinating the human, economic and technological resources that are already in place, not competing; it means setting egos aside to make the causes succeed; it requires reaching out to opponents and potential partners to come up and implement solutions that make sense. Anti-war panicking is a deadly disease; critical thinking and acting strategically are its cures and, with them, an end to the war epidemic.
Posted by Antony Adolf on July 20, 2010 at 11:37 AM in Africa, Americas, Asia, Conflict Resolution, Critical Theory, Culture, Current Events, Europe, History, Peace, Politics, Technology, U.S., War and Conflicts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Afghanistan War, Anti-War, Anti-War Activism, Anti-War History, Anti-War Movement, Critical Thinking, Enging War, Iraq War, Peace History, Protesting, Stopping War, Strategy, Vietnam War
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His name is Swami Ramdev, and he captivates more people than Oprah, like her urging self-improvement in personal revolutions, if from within different traditions. He has been credited with reintroducing yoga to the middle and lower classes of India, and by so doing has become one of the country's most sought-after gurus. He is in the process of transforming his yoga empire into a political machine that is hyper-ethnocentric, xenophobic but also impressively empowering. And it's working.
Swamis Ramdev's TV program, "Om Yog Sadhana," and the campus of his Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust organization have brought in millions of people and dollars, regardless of his vow of poverty. The Trust's website welcomes visitors with a cult-like message blending ancient philosophy with contemporary trends in what would be decidedly New Age had it been proposed in the "New World." But because it hasn't, Ramdev is perceived as a visionary along Gandhian lines to some, and simply a wacko to others.
Here are a few of the principles detailed on the Trust's website, which form the basis of his strange but apparently effective combination of spirituality and politicking:
The Five Vows: 1. God has choosen me for self redemption and for welfare of the world; 2. Life has got before it a very sublime goal of service to the nation and service of mankind; 3. I will never assess myself disparagingly; 4. I will maintain a perennial flow of noble sentiments in my life; 5. I will live as a cautious and vigilant representative of my Guru, God and nation.
The Five Targets: 1. 100% voting; 2. 100% nationalistic thinking; 3. 100% total boycott of foreign companies, and complete support to swadeshi; 4. 100% organization of patriots; 5. To make a healthy, prosperous and cultured Bharat by developing a 100% yoga - practicing Bharat.
The Seven Norms of Good Conduct: 1. Vegitarianism; 2. Addiction-free; 3. Healthy; 4. Competent; 5. Dedicated; 6. Non-political life; 7. Commitment to devote at least two hours daily to yoga and national interest.
The Seven Norms of Nationalism: 1. Nationalism; 2. Enterprise; 3. Transparency; 4. Foresight; 5. Humanitarianism; 6. Spiritualism; 7. Humility.
The radical if curious neoconservatism, steeped in populism and ultra-nationalism, Ramdev is in the midst of proposing as a quick fix malaise solution to India's rapid modernization in recent years is appealing mostly to the lower and middle classes, although he is not without upper class support as well.
Ramdev calls his spiritual-political movement Bharat Swabhiman, and intends to eradicate corruption, crime and poverty from India with an aim to transform it into a World Power. The Oprah of India is thus just as much a current event creating the future as the Oprah of America.
Posted by Antony Adolf on April 27, 2010 at 02:03 PM in Asia, Business, Critical Theory, Culture, Current Events, Education, History, Politics, Religion, Technology, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Anti-Corruption, Bharat Swabhiman, Conservatism, Corruption, Cult, Cults, Ethnocentrism, Five Targets, Five Vows, India, Indian Politics, Nationalism, Neoconservatism, Om Yog Sadhana, Oprah, Oprah of India, Populism, Populist, Radical, Ramdev, Seven Norms of Good Conduct, Seven Norms of Nationalism, Swamis Ramdev, tanjali Yogpeeth Trust, Television, TV, Ultra-Nationalism, Ultranationalism, Xenophobia, Yog, Yoga, Yoga Guru
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Just before Google went public in 2004, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin circulated a letter to users and stakeholders highlighting their company's motto: "Don't be evil." Whatever it meant, two years later the company shocked users and stakeholders when it designed a special version of its software containing censorship parameters for use in China. Flip flopping once again, this week Google oddly became the champion of freedom of expression and sticking it to the man once again when it threatened to pull out of China after censorial hacker attacks. But a week earlier, Google announced the launch of the Breaking Borders Awards to honor web projects displaying courage in support of freedom of expression, making it difficult to hold that the China row was an unexpected isolated event.
"As part of Google's mission to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful, we want to commend online actors that are making the public aware of some of the social and political challenges we continue to face today," Google and its partners, Global Voices and Thompson Reuters, say on the website giving information about the Awards and how to nominate web projects. The announcement came from Rachel Whetstone, Vice President Global Communications and Public Affairs, first on Google's Public Policy blog (perhaps confusing it with 'public relations'?), then on the company's official blog. The release date was January 6, and the China row occurred days later, implying that Google was already trying to change its image back to the "good guy" of the internet. Meanwhile, China has defended its position under pretenses of just requiring all companies to obey the law.
This appears to be Google's last gasp as the Robin Hood of internet and media companies. It has become a monolithic monstrosity with several of its services suffering, and Awards and standoffs with governments are flashy but futile arrows aimed at distracting customers-supporters from this fact. The litigation surrounding its copyright violations of book publishers is one issue it may be trying to smokescreen. In any case, by 2013, about 840 million Chinese will be surfing the Web at least once a month, predicts research firm eMarketer Inc., compared to between 330 million and 400 million Chinese who regularly use the internet now. Google cannot meet its self-stated goal of making the world's information universally accessible if China's population, about a fifth of the world's, does not have access to it. Moreover, shareholders focused on quarterly numbers will quickly find a company that will tap the market if Google refuses to for whatever reason. Google is without a doubt a current event creating the future, but it should think a bit more of its own.
Technorati Tags: Breaking Borders, Breaking Borders Awards, Censorship, China, eMarketer Inc., Freedom of Expression, Global Voices, Gooble Blog, Google, Google Public Policy Blog, Internet in China, Public Policy, Public Relations, Rachel Whetstone, Thompson Reuters
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