The CSS Blog Network

The Power of Photography: Refugees and The Global Rubbish Problem

Sceernshot of Boston Globe and Guardian slideshows

Sceenshot of Boston Globe / Guardian slideshows: Displaced children chasing a truck spraying insecticide through a UNHCR refugee camp in Pakistan / A child swimming in the polluted waters in Cilincing, Indonesia.

Two very different issues, two powerful slideshows.

Slideshows like this tend to remind you of the power of photography- the way a photograph can say so much, awaken so many senses, give rise to so many ideas, sadness, anger, joy, curiosity, and eventually action.

We wanted to share both with you:

  • The Guardian recently ran a slideshow titled ‘World’s poor overwhelmed by rubbish‘. From mountains of rubbish in Naples and New Orleans to desolate scenes of rivers of rubbish in the Philippines and Indonesia.
  • The Boston Globe’s Alan Taylor put together a slideshow titled ‘Children in Pakistan‘ depicting the plight of those caught in the middle of the Taliban-Pakistan battles in the Swat valley and in refugee camps.

It’s the singularity, stupid!

Ray Kurzweil, Photo TED

Ray Kurzweil, Photo TED

Ray Kurzweil’s talk at a recent TED convention makes compulsive viewing for anyone interested in how information technology could shape our world. Anyone unfamiliar with Kurzweil’s work would do well to pick up “The Singularity is Near“. It’s a door-stopper of a book so let me offer a potted summary that does it no justice at all: Non-biological intelligence (i.e. computers) is getting smarter. Sometime this century it will surpass biological intelligence (i.e. human beings). Should we be afraid? Not really. Much good will come of the singularity if we are wise to the challenges it brings.

I myself will be watching Terminator Salvation this weekend.

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Swiss Security Policy Takes Shape on Online Platform

This is unique even for Swiss standards of direct democracy. Before drafting the 2009 Report on Security Policy, the first security white paper in ten years, the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) called on more than 40 experts, politicians and interest groups to give their input. What is more, the DDPS invited all citizens to comment on those hearings, using a moderated discussion platform. This website, SIPOL WEB, was set up, maintained and moderated by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) and the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich.

Prof Dr Andreas Wenger, Director, Center for Security Studies (CSS)

Prof Dr Andreas Wenger, Director, Center for Security Studies (CSS), Photo ZVg, ETH Zurich

Prof Dr Andreas Wenger, director of the CSS, is satisfied with the outcome. “All in all we counted more than 8500 visitors to the website, of which 150 contributed actively. We are very happy with the results, because what matters is the quality of the comments and not their number. The contributions to SIPOL WEB were mostly extensive, well-founded and remarkably substantial. This is the difference between this website and other blogs and discussion forums. The contributions exceeded our expectations.”

Now it is for the government to meet the expectations of its citizens and actually take into consideration their opinion. The 2009 Report on Security Policy is due by the end of the year.

AF447: Piecing the Puzzle

Air France Airbus A330, Photo Christopher Weyer/ Wikipedia

Air France Airbus A330, Photo Christopher Weyer/ Wikipedia

Flight safety may not have much to do with the state of the world. But the tragedy of Air France flight 447 demonstrates how open source data can be used to furnish situational awareness and bridge gaps in our knowledge.

First stop: the Aviation Safety Network, a complete database of airline related incidents that makes grim reading for anyone planning their summer holiday. From there, to the specific AF447 page, which comes complete with photos, interactive maps, multimedia files, and incident statistics.

Next, to Weather Graphics, a provider of weather-related data sets, where the author has compiled a complete meteorological analysis, using personal knowledge, open source data and information provided by third parties. His conclusion? Until we know better, it looks like heavy turbulence and structural failure brought the plane down (in other words, the plane was torn apart by the storm).

Final stop: True/Slant, an news service billed as “a home for entrepreneurial journalists”, where an aviation reporter pulls it all together for a lay audience. In keeping with the theme, Vanity Fair’s recent article on US Airways Flight 1549 is essential reading for anyone studying or working in crisis management.

Insight into the Inner Workings of Iranian Politics

Mousavi supporters on the streets of Tehran, Iran, photo: Shahram Sharif/flickr

Mousavi supporters on the streets of Tehran, Iran, photo: Shahram Sharif/flickr

The people of Iran will vote for a new president on Friday, 12 June.

The race is tight. Two of the candidates have good chances of winning. Former Prime Minister Mousavi relies on a broad base of supporters, but polls show that the incumbent Ahmadinejad is the leader in Iran’s presidential elections.

According to this insightful article by ISN correspondent Kamal Nazer Yasin, the developments in Iran in the next few days will be critical. Today, the police have forbidden further displays of political loyalty in the streets. With several million people having experienced the joys of freedom in the streets of Tehran and other cities, it will be interesting to see how the government can contain popular anger once Ahmadinejad is announced the winner.

Kamal Nazer Yasin is the pseudonym of the Iran correspondent for ISN Security Watch. With deep knowledge of the Iranian political environment and 50 Security Watch articles under his name, Yasin has provided the ISN with extensive coverage of Iranian politics and its regional implications.

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