Keeping Peace at a Price

The United Nations (UN) is about to do something it has never done before. It is going to its first war.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been on the ground since 1999 and over the years the maximum 19,815 personnel mission has seen next-door neighbor Rwanda’s genocide spillover to anarchy, has been silent witness to rebel forces’ taking over Goma, the country’s second-largest city and has recently seen the surging violence of murder and rape of innocent Congolese.

On 28 March 2013, frustrated and exasperated with recurrent waves of conflict, the UN Security Council (UNSC) decided by Resolution 2098, to create a specialized ‘intervention brigade’, with a mandate “of neutralizing armed groups and the objective of contributing to reducing the threat posed by armed groups to state authority and civilian security in eastern DRC and to make space for stabilization activities”, for which it is “authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate.”

In other conflicts, the UN has allowed nations and regional alliances to go to war; however, in Congo, the UN itself and the ‘blue berets’ themselves, under the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), will be responsible for the operational capacities, field operations and the inevitable casualties. The newly-appointed Force Commander Lt. Gen. Carlos Santos Cruz has explicitly indicated that the intervention “starts now!

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A Numbers Game

Bangladesh Population ProjectionRecently, the representative of the UNFPA in Bangladesh stated that the last census to be held in Bangladesh could be in 2021, due to the rapid urbanization of the country and the difficulty of enumeration in cities. The last Population and Housing Census, 2011, conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) showed the population at 149 million people.

However, should Bangladesh not conduct censuses beyond 2021, we would be losing out on valuable information that indicate where our economy and our demography are heading, and help guide policy matters. The UK is also planning similar changes and researchers are worried at the loss of invaluable info. In a world of ‘denominator management’, a small population (i.e. a small denominator) makes most economic indicators seem rosier. But to truly know where we stand and where we need to be, we need such detailed information and regular censuses, no matter how politically unpalatable or logistically nightmarish the process may be.

In the US, recent census data reveal a number of interesting facts that point to the direction of demographies and the economy. Among them are that White Americans will no longer be the majority by 2043, rural population is decreasing for the first time in the US and Asian & Hispanic populations are growing the fastest, in percentage and absolute terms respectively, becoming the bulwark of tomorrow’s labor force.

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This Hacker Life!

We are, or more accurately, are compelled to becoming tach savvy to the point where we are becoming regular hackers. No, I do not mean hacking small everyday DIY stuff, like they teach at Lifehacker. I mean to hack into your gadgets to make it do things it wasn’t originally meant to, to build smart gadgets & robots with a $25 ARM Linux box computer, to use virtual currency that’s decentralized and encrypted, to go on networks that provide anonymous, untraceable exploration and communication – and the sorts.

Jailbreaking, rooting and hacking your devices has become so commonplace that often the choice of hardware depends on the ease of figuratively prying it open and gaining capabilities that are beyond the ‘official’ technical specs or above the approved apps list, be it your smartphone, your game console, your set-top box or even all combinations thereof.

The ubiquitous and ingenious Raspberry Pi is making its way into our lives in the forms of DIY projects, Kickstarter initiatives and children’s essential learning tools. And it is not just limited to scientists, programmers, instructors and geeks, but a slew of enthusiasts are using the Pi to fabricate everything from smart toys to supercomputers and cloud infrastructure. Continue reading →

Who’s On Google+ : Innovators & Early Adopters, also Bangladeshis

Who’s on Google+?

According to Experian Hitwise, the social network has seen an accelerated lifecycle transition as innovators make way for early adopters and mainstream users, just six weeks into the launch of the network.

Initially, young singles and recent college graduates, or “Colleges and Cafés”, had taken to Google+, their usage peaking at three weeks. Now, as these innovators decrease their frequency of visits, “Status Seeking Singles”, the early adopters continue to make up a large part of the userbase, along with “Kids and Cabernet”, described as prosperous, middle-aged married couples living child-focused lives in affluent suburbs. According to Experian, this “Kids and Cabernet” group is the first sign of Google+ adoption by mainstream users.

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And the Song (of Freedom) Plays On: Salud, Tareque Masud

Tareque Masud (তারেক মাসুদ), the brilliant Bangladeshi independent film director, is no more.

He died on 13 August, 2011 in a road accident on the Dhaka-Aricha highway, at Joka of Ghior upazilla in Manikganj district, while returning to Dhaka from Manikganj, having visited a shooting spot for his latest project “Kagojer Phool”. ATN News CEO, eminent media personality Ashfaque (Mishuk) Munier, son of 1971 martyred intellectual Munier Chowdhury, and teacher of video communication at the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism of the University of Dhaka, and three others also died in the fatal road accident as the microbus carrying them collided head-on with an oncoming bus.

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Remember, Remember, The 5th of November

Hacktivist group Anonymous has claimed that on November 5th, 2011, Facebook will be “destroyed”!

An Anonymous Twitter account, @OP_Facebook (signifying “Operation Facebook”), has been set up with a tweet linking to this YouTube video. The transcript is available here. (Note: November 5th is a somewhat significant date for revolution)

Anonymous has recently claimed involvement in a number of notable hacking attacks this year, including breaking into numerous law enforcement websites and taking down the Syrian Ministry of Defense website. According to them, Anonymous has taken this recent interest in Facebook due to privacy concerns and its plans to create its own social network, called AnonPlus.

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The “IE User Low IQ Study” Hoax and the “Creation” of News

You may have read about it and even posted it on social networks and media – “Users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web Browser have a Lower-than-average IQ”. This has turned out to be a hoax.

A website called AptiQuant.com published a report on how a study has revealed that IE users have lower-than-average IQ. This, quite understandably, enraged numerous IE users, and hate mail & threats of litigation against AptiQuant followed.

Later, uncanny similarities between AptiQuant.com and CentralTest.co.uk sites were discovered, which led to the veracity of the study and the site itself being questioned. Eventually, the site admitted to the hoax, and apologized to CentralTest for using their website materials, including the same “Our Team” people with different, imaginary names!

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