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Improving the U.S. Military’s Understanding of Unstable Environments Vulnerable to Violent Extremist Groups: Insights from Social Science

Improving the U.S. Military’s Understanding of Unstable Environments Vulnerable to Violent Extremist Groups: Insights from Social Science
Source: RAND Corporation

Over the previous decade, operations associated with irregular warfare have placed large demands on U.S. ground forces and have led to development of new Army and Joint doctrine. This report helps analysts identify and assess key factors that create and perpetuate environments susceptible to insurgency, terrorism, and other extremist violence and instability to inform military decisions on allocation of analytic and security assistance resources. The report focuses in particular on sources of understanding about these environments from the fields of sociology and cultural anthropology. RAND researchers surveyed existing sociological and anthropological theories and schools of thought and identified 12 key factors that give rise to and sustain unstable environments. The research found a relatively high degree of consensus among experts regarding the salience of these factors. The factors are interrelated and mutually dependent in complex ways. The report proposes a series of qualitative and quantitative metrics for each of the 12 factors and uses them in an analytic construct for assessing countries and regions based on their susceptibility to unstable environments.

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Sexual Assault Reports Drop at Service Academies

Sexual Assault Reports Drop at Service Academies
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Reports of sexual assault decreased in two of the three military academies in academic year 2012-13, officials of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office said today.

The statistics came from DOD’s Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, which is being delivered to Congress today.

During the academic year, a total of 70 reports were made at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Air Force Academy, officials said. The number of sexual assaults reported declined at West Point and Colorado Springs, but rose at Annapolis.

A report of sexual assault means at least one military victim or subject, said Air Force Col. Alan Metzler, an official with the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office.

Of the 70 reports, 53 came from cadets and midshipmen for events they experienced in military service. “We are getting reports from victims for events prior to their military service or prior to entering the service academies,” Metzler said.

The report provides an assessment of the effectiveness of the service academies’ policies and training to prevent sexual violence. The assessment found the academies were compliant with their policies regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault during the academic year, which ran from June 2012 to May 2013.

“What we found was the academies instituted a lot of new initiatives to enhance training, improve awareness of sexual harassment and assault and to promote a safe environment for all cadets and midshipmen,” Metzler said.

The report includes information from focus groups of midshipmen and cadets. “They told us – and we’re pleased by this – that reports of sexual assault or sexual harassment would be taken seriously by academy leaders, and they would be dealt with appropriately,” the colonel said. “That’s the good news.”

Still, cadets and midshipmen also identified some peer pressure barriers to reporting these crimes, he said.

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PEW: How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities

How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

Americans strongly value the role of public libraries in their communities, both for providing access to materials and resources and for promoting literacy and improving the overall quality of life. Most Americans say they have only had positive experiences at public libraries, and value a range of library resources and services.

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2012 Demographics Report: Profile of the Military Community

2012 Demographics Report: Profile of the Military Community (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

This Demographics Report, which was prepared for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), presents a synthesis of demographic information describing members and families in the military community in fiscal year 2012. Active Duty Service branches include DoD’s Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Coast Guard; and the Reserve Components include DoD’s Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, and DHS’s Coast Guard Reserve.

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Measuring Internet Activity: A (Selective) Review of Methods and Metrics

Measuring Internet Activity: A (Selective) Review of Methods and Metrics
Source: Berkman Center for Internet & Society (via Social Science Research Network)

Two Decades after the birth of the World Wide Web, more than two billion people around the world are Internet users. The digital landscape is littered with hints that the affordances of digital communications are being leveraged to transform life in profound and important ways. The reach and influence of digitally mediated activity grow by the day and touch upon all aspects of life, from health, education, and commerce to religion and governance. This trend demands that we seek answers to the biggest questions about how digitally mediated communication changes society and the role of different policies in helping or hindering the beneficial aspects of these changes. Yet despite the profusion of data the digital age has brought upon us — we now have access to a flood of information about the movements, relationships, purchasing decisions, interests, and intimate thoughts of people around the world — the distance between the great questions of the digital age and our understanding of the impact of digital communications on society remains large. A number of ongoing policy questions have emerged that beg for better empirical data and analyses upon which to base wider and more insightful perspectives on the mechanics of social, economic, and political life online. This paper seeks to describe the conceptual and practical impediments to measuring and understanding digital activity and highlights a sample of the many efforts to fill the gap between our incomplete understanding of digital life and the formidable policy questions related to developing a vibrant and healthy Internet that serves the public interest and contributes to human wellbeing. Our primary focus is on efforts to measure Internet activity, as we believe obtaining robust, accurate data is a necessary and valuable first step that will lead us closer to answering the vitally important questions of the digital realm. Even this step is challenging: the Internet is difficult to measure and monitor, and there is no simple aggregate measure of Internet activity — no GDP, no HDI. In the following section we present a framework for assessing efforts to document digital activity. The next three sections offer a summary and description of many of the ongoing projects that document digital activity, with two final sections devoted to discussion and conclusions.

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Full Text Reports: Women and Conflict in Afghanistan

Women and Conflict in Afghanistan (PDF)
Source: International Crisis Group

As the presidential election approaches in 2014, with the security transition at the year’s end, Afghan women, including parliamentarians and rights activists, are concerned that the hard-won political, economic and social gains achieved since the U.S.-led intervention in 2001 may be rolled back or conceded in negotiations with the insurgents. Afghanistan’s stabilisation ultimately rests on the state’s accountability to all its citizens, and respect for constitutional, legal and international commitments, including to human rights and gender equality. There will be no sustainable peace unless there is justice, and justice demands that the state respect and protect the rights of women, half its population.

Following the Taliban’s ouster, Afghan women worked hard to reverse the damage wrought by more than two decades of a civil war that deprived them of the limited progress towards gender equality experienced in earlier times. As a result of international support, donor aid and their own efforts, women are now an essential part of the post-Taliban order and have played a major role in reconstructing the state and its institutions. 40 per cent of all schoolchildren are girls. Women are more than 27 per cent of parliament. They are in the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and are lawyers, entrepreneurs, journalists and civil society activists.

In the last twelve years, women’s legal status has improved considerably. Gender equality is enshrined in the constitution. The Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law criminalises rape for the first time. The state is now legally bound to protect women from violence. The ministry of women’s affairs (MOWA) and the government’s National Action Plan for Women (NAPWA) place empowerment at the heart of state building. Yet, women still struggle to avail themselves of their rights and to consolidate and advance their progress.

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