Peaceful and Restful Holidays, Dear Readers

From left to right: Joav, Vivian, Emilie, Cate, Charlie, Mara, Jonas, Ralph, Kaisa

The ISN Blog team would like to thank our readers for an exciting and interesting year. Thank you for interacting, taking part in discussions here and our other social media platforms and for helping us grow and expand our reach!

Stay in touch with us as the new year kicks in; comment and ‘like’ on Facebook, re-tweet on Twitter and let us know, via e-mail or comments on the blog if there are any particular stories you’d like us to cover or feature here in 2011.

We’ll be offline until the 3 January 2011 when another year of original blog posts, ISN Insights, Podcasts and Publications starts!

In the meantime, we’d like to wish you a peaceful and restful holiday period filled with calm, kindness and just enough snow!

- ISN Bloggers

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Please Don’t Mention Transnistria

Finding peace in an uncomfortable setting, photo: Dasha Gaian/flickr

Last Sunday, parliamentary elections were held in Transnistria, where 123 candidates vied for 43 seats in the local Supreme Council. With the counting of the votes still ongoing, the favorite to hold on to parliament in this 530,000-strong quasi-state is the “Renovation Party”, which has also controlled the majority of seats in the past. For those who may be wondering, Transnistria is this long and narrow strip of Eastern Moldova bounded on one side by the Dnestr River and on the other by Ukraine.

After the dissolution of the USSR, Transnistria broke away from Moldova over fears that the former Soviet republic would seek reunification with neighboring Romania. In 1992, Moldova and Transnistria fought a short war which ended with a Russian-mediated settlement, enforced by Russian troops already stationed in the region. From the very first day, therefore, the breakaway region of Transnistria depended on Russia for support. Under growing international pressure, however, Russia then went on to sign the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe at a 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, under which it pledged to withdraw all its troops and military equipment from Transnistria by 2002.

This pledge was, however, not adhered to. » More

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Everyone in India speaks English… Right?

Is the English language losing clout in India? photo: Gregory Melle/flickr

A recent BBC article takes up the debate that has been ongoing in India on whether to teach English in schools and colleges. The issue is like a double-edged sword. In a trend towards “Indianization”, many schools and colleges are putting increased emphasis on teaching and even academic writing in vernacular languages. Yet those schools and colleges that teach exclusively in English are often considered of higher quality, and the students of these institutions are privileged because they can get better jobs, rise in social status and get a piece of the cake of India’s tremendous economic growth. Such is the role of English as a social divider that there are plenty of politics involved in preventing the lower classes and castes from learning it.

When the (British) East India Company first came to India, members of high castes became intermediaries between the British rulers and Indian society at large. They were privileged and acquired good positions during the British rule. Today, those who are proficient in English are privileged because they can get one of the numerous jobs created through the outsourcing of services from the western world to India. Knowing English is a crucial skill on the Indian labor market. Even university graduates can’t hope to get a decent job if they don’t know English, which is one reason why educated unemployment is so high.

Though English has become part and parcel of Indian society, the impression in the West that “everyone in India speaks English” is simply wrong. There are 22 constitutionally recognized languages in India. And while India has two national languages for central administrative purposes, Hindi and English, it is Hindi that is the national, official, and uniting language of India. English is an associate official language, useful in particular because while Hindi is spoken and understood in most parts of North India, this is not the case in the South.

Apart from being the glue that holds the large bureaucracy together if all other languages fail, English is popular in the Indian parliament, judiciary, in the media, business and of course in the world-famous Indian IT industry. Generally, the growing role of the internet in all these fields has only contributed to the popularity of English as a lingua franca. English has also made its way into the ordinary language of people who would consider themselves non-English speakers or are illiterate: Time kya hua, bhai? (What’s the time, brother?); aaj date kya hai? (What’s the date today?); kya tum school jaate ho? (Do you go to school?); or, election kab hai? (When is the election?) etc. » More

ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

The year's last ISN Insights week starts today. photo: Caro's Lines/flickr

In the past week, ISN Insights examined:

This week, ISN Insights will examine: US cyber command, Maoism in India, Guinea and Ivory Coast elections and the political implications of the Irish bailout.

PLEASE NOTE that ISN Insights will be on a publishing break from the 24.12.2010 to the 03.01.2011.


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Behind Walls or Out in the Open? The Challenges of Protecting and Sharing Information

Newest ISN OSINT Report

ISN OSINT Report 4/2010

In this year’s final OSINT Report Florian Schaurer and Jan Störger examine the prevalent classification and safeguarding procedures in place for sensitive national security information. They provide a synopsis of definitions, and cast light on the complex interplay between officially required secrecy and publicly desired transparency.

The report also addresses the implications of over-classification on the one hand, and authorized or unauthorized disclosures (‘leaks’) of classified information on the other, raising awareness in the interest of more balanced governmental information security and sharing.

Please find previous ISN OSINT Reports here.

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