Putting a Value on Privacy

Photo: Alan Cleaver/flickr


A 19 February article by Newsweek (The Snitch in Your Pocket Law enforcement is tracking Americans’ cell phones in real time—without the benefit of a warrant), attempts to revive the debate about the government’s forays into the realm of “Big Brother” (a cliché no mainstream media outlet can avoid).

The FBI, according to the article, has been seeking “unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies” that show “the locations of their customers’ cell phones – sometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact.” This information, according to federal prosecutors, is used to trace the movements of suspected drug traffickers, human smugglers and corrupt officials. The story was revived because a few federal magistrates questioned the legal authority for obtaining this information. The report notes that there are some 277 million cell phone users in the US, and that companies like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint can track their devices in real time. It also quoted ‘experts’ as saying that most people do not realize this.

Lately, according to Newsweek, citing law enforcement officials, court records and telecommunications executives, “the FBI and other law-enforcement outfits have been obtaining more and more records of cell-phone locations – without notifying the targets or getting judicial warrants establishing ‘probable cause.’
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Japanese Manga Diplomacy

"My name's Doraemon. I'm Japan's Anime Ambassador". / Photo: gutninja, flickr

I didn’t take it seriously when in 2007 foreign minister Taro Aso launched the International Manga Award. The media ridiculed Aso for not being able to read Japanese properly, which some said was due to him preferring cartoons to books. And indeed Aso liked to portray himself as a manga otaku, a freak.

I thus saw nothing else in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ initiative to actively use pop culture in public diplomacy than the minister’s personal obsession.

Even though it had never interested me much, I knew that many young people were attracted to Japan because of its manga and anime culture. But creating the post of an Anime Ambassador and filling it with Doraemon, the popular comic cat, didn’t seem like serious foreign policy to me.

However, recently, a couple of impressions have changed my mind. First, there was the article in Le monde diplomatique‘s Atlas. In “Japan’s innocent faces” Namihei Odaira argues that the  government’s efforts in promoting anime and manga abroad have contributed to Japan being perceived favorably in the yearly BBC global attitudes survey.

He also mentions how the trucks of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in Iraq were painted with the image of Captain Tsubasa, another popular anime figure. The trucks were never attacked, which is attributed to Captain Tsubasas positive influence.

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ISN Weekly Theme: At Peace With Rebels

Rebel leader announces the singning of a peace agreement in the DRC

Rebel leader announces the singning of a peace agreement in the DRC, photo: UN Photo/flickr

This week the ISN examines the role of armed non-state actors in conflict environments and peacebuilding processes. From rebel groups to militias, armed non-state actors are key to the course and sustainable resolution of today’s conflicts.

In this week’s Special Report:

  • An Analysis by Dr Véronique Dudouet from the Berghof Center for Conflict Research examines the importance of inclusive peacemaking that addresses the roots of the conflict and facilitates the reintegration of armed non-state groups by offering incentives for political participation.
  • A Podcast with Max Glaser explores the dilemmas facing humanitarian organizations as they try to balance the benefits against the dangers of engaging armed non-state actors.
  • Security Watch articles on India’s Maoist insurgency, US efforts to enlist local militias in the stabilization of Afghanistan and many more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a paper analyzing the role of armed non-state actors in peace processes, and a working paper on the importance of foreign military assistance to fragile states facing internal conflict.
  • Primary Resources, including UN Security Council Resolution 1125 on the crisis in the Central African Republic.
  • Links to relevant websites, including an article by the International Committee of the Red Cross detailing instruments and strategies used by non-state actors to respect international humanitarian law during intra-state conflicts in Africa, and a wiki created by Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies that provides intelligence analysis on the impact of armed non-state actors in sub-Saharan Africa between 2007 and 2012.
  • And through our IR Directory access to relevant institutions, including the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS).
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PoliSciZurich: Welcome To The Party

poliscizurich.wordpress.com

The professors and researchers at the Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS), an have just started a blog, PoliSciZurich.

From PoliSciZurich:

“Our goal is to engage in a fresh exchange on research, teaching, and the academic profession by exploiting what makes political science in Zurich distinctive, namely a strongly research-oriented and international profile in a European location.”

Welcome to the blogosphere. Make yourselves at home!

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Republika Srpska: The Reality of Illusion

Puppet

Election season: Time for the puppet master / Photo: Victor Nuno, flickr

A recent law on referendums that could technically pave the way for Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, to legally hold a public referendum at some point on independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina should be seen for what it is: An election-year ploy to keep an impossible issue alive.

The international media has been all over the announcement, grabbing headlines with dark fears of secession and boiling ethnic tensions. Republika Srpska leader Milorad Dodik is certainly in his element, and he is more than adept at navigating the international media as well as wooing Bosnian Serb voters. He is savvy and on top of things, and his tactics tend to work.

A referendum on independence is out of the question, and he knows this – though is happy to keep his supporters thinking otherwise – and the rhetoric surrounding this issue (as always) intensifies during an election year. All Dodik needs to do to score points with increasingly disillusioned Bosnian Serbs is bring up the issue with a renewed zeal around about election time and votes are assured.

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