National security wrap

The beat

Violence spikes in Rio

Brazil’s Institute of Public Security has reported a sharp uptick in the incidence of ‘lethal violence’ in Rio de Janeiro. In the first five months of 2016, there were an average of 16 deaths per day; between January and May this year, the number had risen to 19—an increase of 16.4%.

That has prompted some city-dwellers to flee; there’s a growing feeling that it’s too dangerous to raise a family in Rio. Other citizens, aided by human rights organisations like Amnesty International, are instead using crowdsourced apps to pinpoint gunfire locales for 3 million of the city’s residents.

As the violence spirals into Rio’s ‘worst security crisis in more than a decade’, there will need to be a concerted effort to address the underlying socioeconomic causes. That won’t be easy—there are hints that the rampant corruption is intensifying: nearly 100 military police officers were recently charged in Rio, in the country’s ‘largest-ever’ police corruption case.

And in Brasilia, the Federal Police have just stood down a ‘successful corruption-fighting task force’—it seems that Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, is just one politician facing criminal charges as a result of the group’s investigation, The New York Times explains.

Hungry, hungry judges

Nautilus magazine, which hosts musings from psychologist Daniel Lakens, has a piece on a puzzling social study. In 2010, researchers found that judges consistently handed out harsher sentences right before lunch. Were the judges simply ‘hangry’? Definitely not; the measured effect was far too large to be countenanced by common sense.

CT scan

Countering terror in the Philippines—a Muslim-only problem?

In terms of counterterrorism measures that curb civil liberties, writing the CT scan for the past six months I really thought I’d seen it all: Trump’s proposed travel ban, China’s ban on beards and veils in Xinjiang, or proposed emergency laws closer to home in Queensland that would allow police to search electronic devices. However, one region in the Philippines appears to have gone one step further and is pushing for mandatory identification cards for all Muslims living in the Central Luzon area. The decision, likely inspired by President Duterte’s accusation that Filipino Muslims had failed to stop the ‘corrupt ideology of Islamic State’ from destroying Marawi, was quickly condemned by Human Rights Watch as ‘collective punishment’. Speaking at the Interpol World conference, a security expert warned against ‘rigid profiling’ in the fight against terrorism.

Terror advice for holidaymakers

Run, hide, tell: that’s the advice being offered to British holidaymakers in the event of a terror attack abroad. As the summer break gets underway, the four-minute video, released by UK counterterrorism police, offers tourists advice on how to act and where to go in the ‘rare’ event of an attack.


Russia chips away at Georgia

Russia moved its border markers hundreds of yards further into the Georgia-controlled Republic of South Ossetia last week, according to local media. Georgia’s national security service condemned the move as a continuation of borderisation—a process whereby Russian troops move the border posts to further absorb the disputed territory that Moscow has recognised as a sovereign state since the end of the 2008 Russo-Georgia War. President Giorgi Margvelashvili says that ‘Georgia will use all diplomatic levers at its disposal to stop the creeping occupation’.

New Nepal–China border centre

China and Nepal inked an agreement last Thursday to establish the Nepal–China Law Enforcement Cooperation Joint Action Centre in the border town of Keyrong. The centre will aim to halt border-related crimes while ‘respecting each other’s sovereignty’. In June, Indian sources reported that wildlife smuggling from India to China via Nepal and Bhutan had already risen by 121% in 2017.

Afghan girls barred from the US as STEM students

Six Afghan girls were barred from entering the US to present their entry in the FIRST Global Challenge in Washington DC last weekend—an international robotics competition that encourages youth STEM skills. The reason remains unclear, since Afghanistan isn’t a country affected by the administration’s travel ban, and teams from Iran, Syria and Sudan were granted visas to participate.

First responder

All things first responder

In The Conversation, RAND researchers discuss how communities can better be prepared to respond in the aftermath of a mass-casualty event, including building public trust by engaging civilians in collaborations with response agencies. A veteran fire chief argues that equipping the public with the skills to provide immediate first aid in disaster situations can save lives and improve community resilience.

The state of Virginia was the first to sign on to the US Congress–led FirstNet initiative, a broadband network designed for first responders. FirstNet improves communication between first responders by using special networked SIM cards that run on their own system, thus avoiding the regular jamming problems experienced by commercial wireless networks during disasters.

Seismic planning

Protecting data centres against natural disasters is a growing concern, particularly in places like California, where the industry is growing and the risk of earthquakes is high. Data Centre Knowledge discusses some of the ways businesses can mitigate against damage and recover data after an event.

The silo life

If you fear the end of civilisation—and have few million dollars to spare—an ‘apocalypse-safe bunker’ by Survival Condo could be for you. The complex is built inside a former missile silo and is self-sustaining for five years (thanks to fish tanks and hydroponic veggies).