Source: Online Schooling
Who would have thought that math club members in high school would have turned out to be the next counter-terrorism superheros? Anything that keeps our blossoming police state from bearing more fruit deserves widespread attention and support.
New models to dismantle terrorist networks, set to make current (and, some would say, not working) ones obsolete, have been put forth by ultra-high-level mathematicians at the New England Complex Systems Institute. Luckily for us mere mortals, no numbers are required to understand how their mathematical improvements can keep us safer, cheaper and less pervasively.
They published their breakthroughs in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, what all the cool kids are reading these days. In laymen's terms, their new counter-terrorism strategy goes something like this.
Terrorist networks today are taken on as whole through a series of short-term battles. Think of trying to go after Osama bin Laden here, then there, then there, and still never finding him while killing lots of innocent people in several host countries along the way. (Note: Apparently, this method has also been superseded by the U.S. giving $2 billion in military aid to the Pakistani so they can do it themselves.)
What these magician-mathematicians have shown is that it is much, much more effective and less resource-intensive to isolate hubs within a terrorist network rather than try to eliminate them, which goes against centuries of military strategy, including the one currently used to pursue Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups globally. This math-based counter-terrorism strategy is also much less pervasive than its predecessors.
Philip Vos Fellman, an expert in mathematical modeling and strategy, explains that "the nature of a dynamic [terrorist] network is akin to the robust Internet but contrasts starkly with the structure of the armed forces or homeland security systems, which tend to be centralized and hierarchical." His sophisticated computer simulations of real-world terrorist networks show that isolation rather than removal of terrorist cells is the key to successfully defeating terrorists networks as a whole.
Then again, those math club members in high school could also have gone on to be the next software multi-billionaire software developers. But where is the glory in that?
Photo Credit: trindade.joao
Posted by Antony Adolf on October 26, 2010 at 11:25 AM in Conflict Resolution, Critical Theory, Culture, Current Events, Peace, Policy, Science, Technology, Terrorism, U.S., War and Conflicts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: al Qaeda, Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Math, Mathematics, Terrorism, Terrorist Networks, Terrorists, US and Terrorism
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Omer Shoshan, age 19, from the town of Yehud near Tel Aviv, was sentenced to 20 days of imprisonment for refusing to carry out orders against Palestinians he considers immoral, called conscientious objecting. Below is personal statement of refusal. He enlisted in the Israeli military eight months ago, but after becoming a soldier he realized he could not continue his military service under the current Israeli apartheid regime.
Shoshan is held in a secret detention centre, rather than in a military prison, so his prison address is unknown. However, letters of support and encouragement can still be sent to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will be printed out and delivered during visits.
Omar Shoshan's Statement of Conscientious Objection
I refuse to be part of the Israel Defence Forces, an army that occupies and oppresses a Palestinian population on a daily basis, which undermines the chances to achieve peace, and thus also Israel’s security, and which corrupts the moral and democratic character of the state.
For more than 40 years the IDF has been daily oppressing the Palestinians in the occupied territories and denying them their most basic rights to live normally. This includes hampering their freedom of movement, undermining their economy, hurting their bodies, illegally arresting them and committing many other severe crimes that usually fail to make it to the mainstream media. The very fact that any simple soldier serving beyond the Green Line has power over the lives of local residents and can force them to do as he pleases is illegal and undemocratic, and obtains the exact opposite of what it is supposed to – it produces more terrorists, increases hatred towards us and undermines any realistic chances for peace. So what purpose does this oppression really serve? Only one – perpetuating the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal in their own right and which are the obstacle to reaching a compromise between the two peoples.
Even before enlisting I had my doubts about whether or not to join the army, whether to support the army that represents my country or to refuse. I eventually decided to enlist, because I felt that I could refuse from within, to do things otherwise, to effect change. Today I understand that the army’s actions in the occupied territories themselves, its very presence there, are what constitutes the occupation, and no action I could make, not even if I offer a more positive treatment to Palestinian civilians, could make any difference.
I believe that in a country that claims to be a democracy, it is good and even necessary for each of us to voice criticism and indignation when the country is wrong. The IDF is an organisation that fights for interests that I don’t believe in, performs anti-democratic and immoral actions and seriously undermines the chances to achieve piece. I am no longer willing to be part of it.
Tags: Apartheid, Conscientious Objecting, Conscientious Objector, Israel, Israeli Military, Middle East, Omer Shoshan, Palestine, Peace
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We're all familiar with conspiracy theories about UFOs and little green men in human suits controlling the world, like in the cutesy movie Men in Black. Seriously though, according to a group of U.S. military airmen who recently held a press conference in Washington D.C., not only are the otherworldly protagonists of these seemingly far-fetched stories true, they have had an incalculably positive impact on humanity by preventing us from annihilating ourselves and our planet with nuclear weapons.
"The U.S. Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it," they affirmed. According to over 120 military personal, by renowned researcher (or total crackpot, depending on your perspective) Robert Hastings' count, since 1948 extraterrestrials in spaceships have not only been visiting Earth but hovering over British and American nuclear missile sites and temporarily deactivating the nuclear weapons, as LiveScience reports.
Strangely, the U.S. Air Force's response did not deny their intergalactic peacekeeping and nuclear disarmament theory. Officials simply referred to the Air Force Project Blue Book, which investigated UFO sightings between 1947 and 1969. The passage most pertinent to the military personnel's claims reads: "No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.” This statement still leaves open the possibility that national security, and global security for that matter, could have been aided thereby. But I have a different theory.
For me, whether or not aliens exist and exert influence on our planet, as a metaphor for the absolute other in whose face humanity unites and solves our common problems or face their judgment, they reign supreme. They can also stand for the actual tens of thousands of peace and nuclear disarmament activists worldwide who have genuinely been considered aliens by their antagonists despite what they have helped achieve, namely the survival of humanity and all life on earth. That the debt the world owes them remains widely unrecognized is truly out of this world. The universal peacebuilding mission of the Federation of Planets in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek never seemed so (im)plausible.
In the words of science writer, not science fiction writer, Benjamin Radford, "UFO folklore and reports - especially from the 1960s and 1970s - often contained supposed messages from our peace-loving and ecologically aware space brothers warning us quarrelsome and destructive earthlings to treat the planet better and seek world peace. That is undoubtedly good advice (regardless of whether its origin is terrestrial or extraterrestrial) though if Hastings and his colleagues are right, the aliens - if they exist - may have everything under control." How about getting everything under control ourselves?
Photo Credit: [F]oxymoron
Posted by Antony Adolf on October 19, 2010 at 11:25 AM in Americas, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Current Events, Europe, History, Peacekeeping, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Aliens, Nuclear Weapons, Peace, Peacekeeping, Project Blue Book, U.S. Air Force, UFOs
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The Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement (or Nile Treaty, under the auspices of the Nile Basin Initiative, NBI) seeks the establishment of a permanent Nile River Basin Commission through which member countries will act together to manage and develop the resources of the Nile, the world's longest river. To many who visit, the Nile and its fertile valleys are a beautiful backdrop for a cruise or vacation. But for those who live around and depend upon the river, it is that and the source of their physical survival and cultural heritage.
Formally launched in February 1999, the NBI provides an institutional mechanism, a shared vision, and a set of agreed policy guidelines to provide a basinwide framework for cooperative action, according to the Nile Basin Initiative website. The initiative's policy guidelines define the following as the primary objectives of the NBI:
•To develop the Nile Basin water resources in a sustainable and equitable way to ensure
•Prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples
•To ensure efficient water management and the optimal use of the resources
•To ensure cooperation and joint action between the riparian countries, seeking win-win gains
•To target poverty eradication and promote economic integration
•To ensure that the program results in a move from planning to action.
The NBI's Strategic Action Program represents Nile riparian concerted approach to achieving sustainable socioeconomic development in the basin through “equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.” The Strategic Action Program provides the means for translating this shared vision into concrete activities through a two-fold, complementary approach:
•Lay the groundwork for cooperative action through a regional program to build confidence and capacity throughout the basin (the Shared Vision Program)
•Pursue, simultaneously, cooperative development opportunities to realize physical investments and tangible results through sub-basin activities (Subsidiary action programs) in the Eastern Nile and the Nile Equatorial Lakes regions.
So far, five countries have signed the Nile Treaty: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and most recently, Kenya. However, two countries key to the viability of the whole project, Egypt and Sudan, have so far vehemently opposed the Nile Treaty on the grounds that it will detract from their economic interests in the river.
Nonetheless, Egypt, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda belonged to the Technical Co-operation Committee for the Promotion of the Development and Environmental Protection of the Nile Basin (TECCONILE), founded in 1992, a forerunner to the NBI.
As the African population grows with the rise of industrialism, and bigger cities replacing villages, water security and agriculture will be of paramount importance. The Nile Treaty gives reason to hope that these potential conflicts will not turn violent, but no guarantee.
The Nile remains a current event after thousands of years of human dependency on it, and will create a future of peace only if humans can work their problems out before they become violent.
Posted by Antony Adolf on October 15, 2010 at 08:00 AM in Africa, Business, Culture, Current Events, Diplomacy, Economics, Environment, History, International Relations, Middle East, Peace, Science, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Africa, Agriculture, Conflict, Conflict Resolution, Egypt, Ethiopia, Future of Peace in Africa, Industrialism, NBI, Nile Basin Initiative, Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement, Nile Delta, Nile River, Nile River Basin Commission, Nile Treaty, Peace in Africa, Population, Rwanda, Strategic Action Program, Sudan, Tanzania, TECCONILE, Technical Co-operation Committee for the Promotion of the Development and Environmental Protection of the Nile Basin, Uganda. Kenya, Water in Africa, Water Security
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So the Nobel Peace Prize Committee members have a thing for dissenters like laureates Liu Xiaobo (2010), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Lech Walesa (1983), Andrei Sakharov (1975) and Carl von Ossietzky (1935), eh? Here's some dissent against them: Your recent award choices do more harm than good as far as furthering peace is concerned, your membership should be revoked immediately, and you should be replaced by people who can carry out their legal duties adequately, at least. Here’s why.
To be clear, I am not dissenting against the Nobel Peace Prize itself, though its domination of the global popular imagination when it comes to peace is debilitating, nor am I downplaying the dissenters they have honored, who though icons limit social change as such. What I am saying is that its members and all those worldwide who look up to their choices (to say nothing of the nominators, who in-breed bad decisions as former laureates) would do well to take an extra-large dose of their own medicine when it comes to dissent. There are two main reasons why I am calling for the impeachment of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
First, they have betrayed the legally-binding intent of Alfred Nobel (inventor of dynamite and an arms manufacturer) in his will and testatment, which created the Nobel Peace Prize, and so should be class-action sued by his heirs and estate, not to mention honest fans of the award worldwide and rejected (worthy) awardees. Second, they have and continue to ill-advisedly reinforce peace work as the amorphous enterprise it already is in the minds of most people globally, to its severe detriment. Then there's China's reaction to this year's laureate, but I will leave that for last.
“The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows... one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” That's what Mr. Nobel wanted done with his money, what the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is legally bound to do because it's his will, and what they have not been doing in their recent choices.
Mr. Nobel's definition of peace is as limited as it was for most members of his class, culture and historical moment. It is equally unfortunate that this definition still dominates how peace is thought about and acted upon worldwide, in large part thanks to the Nobel Peace Prize itself. But in trying to expand this definition, Nobel Peace Prize Committee members have not only negligently not carried out their legal duties, they have confused and confounded what peace means beyond Nobel's narrow-minded definition without ever explicitly tying their choices to it. Might as well give Heinz the Chemistry Prize for inventing ketchup.
Take just two recent examples of the Nobel Peace Prize being wrongly awarded. One is to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) for their environmental work, the other to Muhammad Yunus for his microlending work. In the case of Gore, he should have received one of the science Prizes; in the case of Yunus, the Economics Prize; in the case of neither the Peace Prize. Why? Not because their transformational work isn't important and doesn't contribute to peace, but simply because neither of them meet the criteria that Alfred Nobel set for the Nobel Peace Prize, which the Committee's and commentators' attempts to rationalize the choices in itself makes clear.
The same self-evidently goes for this year's laureate, Liu Xiaobo (who should have received the Literature Prize, not that this year's choice of Mario Vargas Llosa wasn't fully worthy), which brings me to my response to China's response. Political statements poor Nobel Peace Prize laureates make, just think back to last year's disastrous choice of Barack Obama, who has since carried out the largest weapons deal in U.S. history and stationed some 100,000 troops in Afghanistan in an imperial war now entering it's tenth year. Oh, and certinaly no one in the world did more for peace according to Nobel's terms before he won the Prize, as even President Obama himself less sarcastically admitted.
And instead of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a dissenter against these international travesties, which would at least have had some vague relation to Nobel's dying wishes and bring them into a light from which they are systematically hidden, the Committee members give it to a dissenter against a dometic travesty that is already globally acknowledged, effectively covering the tracks of (or at best creating a distraction tactic away from) their choice of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is our early century's biggest warmonger after his predecessor.
Unfortunately for eligible laureates, Obama's America generally doesn't yet throw dissenters in jail like China does, so they don't become living martyrs easily glorified by lazy ga-ga journalists and activists abroad; rather, Obama's officials just raid such dissenters' houses, and prevent them from steering terrorists towards peace. China's response was appropriately furious, if also for reasons we like Liu Xiaobo should all dissent to in our own backyards, and not expect a Nobel Peace Prize because doing so is called thinking.
Photo Credit: Rankingranqueen
Posted by Antony Adolf on October 12, 2010 at 07:30 AM in Critical Theory, Culture, Current Events, Diplomacy, History, International Relations, Obama, Peace, Politics, Science, U.S., War and Conflicts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Afghanistan War, Al Gore, Andrei Sakharov, Aung San Suu Kyi, Carl von Ossietzky, Censorship, Cina, Dissent, Dissenter, Dissenting, East Asia, Free Speech, human rights, Lech Walesa, Liu Xiaobo, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mohammed Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize, Obama
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"October 1st marks 18 years since the U.S. Senate approved President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START. It also marks the 300th day since that treaty expired, cutting off U.S. weapons inspectors' access to Russian nuclear sites. Conservatives in the Senate are now blocking the restart of Reagan's inspections." So begins a recent article by Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which invests in peace and security around the globe. The irony is not lost to anyone.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee were to vote in mid-September on whether to send the new START Treaty to the Senate floor for ratification. The START Treaty passed that test, to Obama's approval, but it most likely won't be thought of until after the consequential mid-term elections in November, if then at all. The treaty would cut US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads by about one-third, to 1,550 each.
Since the original START Treaty expired, on-site monitoring of Russia's nuclear weapons and facilities was suspended, to say nothing of those of the U.S. Now that it's open knowledge that Russia is giving Iran nuclear materials, you would think that the U.S. Congress would show a bit more urgency and concern. In addition to removing hundreds of warheads from US and Russian nuclear arsenals and renewing and enhancing verification protocols, "New START" would also help improve cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism, a vital international security priority.
Will the U.S. Congress suddenly realize what is at stake in ratifying the START Treaty and permit a floor vote? Kevin Martin, the leader of Peace Action, says "the New START is a modest step forward toward the realization the President Obama's goal (and ours!) of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. It's a step that should be taken without further delay so the administration can begin work on the steps that must follow." It is that, but it is also a dangerous election-year gamble which no politician, especially conservative ones, can afford to lose.
So doing nothing makes sense for them and them only, even if it puts domestic and global security at risk. Please continue to contact U.S. Senators and ask them to support the New Start Treaty. Call 202-224-3121, or write your Senators at: US Senate, Washington DC 20510; or email them at Senate.gov. Your vote this November can make a world of difference.
Posted by Antony Adolf on September 30, 2010 at 11:31 AM in Conflict Resolution, Culture, Current Events, Diplomacy, Economics, History, International Relations, Obama, Peace, Peacekeeping, Policy, Politics, Technology, U.S., War and Conflicts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Conservatives, Disarmament, Global Security, Iran, Joe Cirincione, National Security, New Start Treaty, November Elections, Nuclear Weapons, Ploughshares Fund, Russia, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, START Treaty, U.S.
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By Rosalind Sanders
Scientists at the American Institute of Physics are seeking to identify superior light-catching substances in order to better transform more of the sun's power into carbon-free electric power. And their learned labors are now bearing fruit that could change the way the world gets its energy forever: cheaper, faster and less harmfully to the environment.
A new study in Applied Physics Letters (published by the American Institute of Physics) describes how solar energy could potentially be collected by using oxide materials that have the element selenium. A team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, inserted selenium in zinc oxide, a relatively low-priced component that could make more cost-efficient use of the sun's power.
The research team determined that even a relatively small level of selenium, just nine per-cent of the mostly zinc-oxide base, dramatically enhanced the material's performance in absorbing light.
The principal author of this analysis, Marie Mayer (a fourth-year College of California, Berkeley doctoral student) says that photo-electrochemical water splitting, that signifies employing energy from the sun to cleave water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, could potentially be the most revolutionary future application for her work. Using this reaction is key to the eventual creation of zero-emission hydrogen powered automobiles, which hypothetically will run only on water and sunlight.
The conversion effectiveness of a PV cell is the proportion of sunlight energy that the solar cell converts to electricity. This is very important when discussing Photovoltaic products, because boosting this efficiency is vital to making Pv electricity competitive with more standard sources of energy (e.g., fossil fuels).
For comparison, the very first Photovoltaic products converted about 1%-2% of sunlight power into electric energy. Today's Pv devices convert 7%-17% of light energy into electric power. Of course, the other side of the equation is the dollars it costs to make the PV devices. This has been reduced over the years as well. In fact, today's PV systems generate electricity at a fraction of the cost of first PV systems.
In the 1990s, when silicon cells were twice as thick, efficiencies were much smaller than today and lifetimes were reduced, it may well have cost more energy to produce a cell than it could generate in a lifetime. In the meantime, the technological know-how has progressed significantly, and the energy repayment time (defined as the recovery time required for generating the energy spent to produce the respective technical energy systems) of a modern photovoltaic module is normally from 1 to 4 years depending on the module type and location.
Normally, thin-film technologies - despite having comparatively low conversion efficiencies - obtain considerably shorter energy repayment times than standard systems (often < 1 year). With a normal lifetime of 20 to 30 years, this signifies that current solar cells are net energy producers, i.e. they generate significantly more energy over their lifetime than the energy expended in producing them.
Rosalind Sanders is the publisher of, and writes for, The Solar Panel Review, which focuses on helping homeowners reduce expenses with solar energy.
Tags: Cheap Energy, Environmentalism, Physics, Rosalind Sanders, Selenium, Selenium Cells, Solar Energy, Solar Panels
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After ten years of violent civil war, Sierra Leoneans were relieved in 2002 when the brutal war was over (exclaimed as “war don don” in the Krio language), but the painful memories of murder, systematic rape and dismemberment remained. WAR DON DON, directed by first-time filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen, follows the war crimes trial of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel leader Issa Sesay, exploring the complex relationship between individual accountability, collective reconciliation and the limits of international justice.
The documentary debuts Wednesday, September 29 (8:00-9:30 p.m. ET/PT) and Sept. 30 (2:30 p.m.) on HBO2. Cohen will be making a special appearance at the Chicago screening at Facets for an audience Q&A on October 8-9. Here's an overview of the context, and content, of a brilliant and contstuctively troubling film.
From 1991 to 2001, the RUF fought to overthrow the ruling government of Sierra Leone. In 2003, after the end of the war, the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone spent more than $200 million building a Special Court to seek justice and reconciliation, setting up the world’s first international war crimes “hybrid tribunal.”
Three years in the making, WAR DON DON draws on unprecedented access to the inner workings of the defense and prosecution in Issa Sesay’s trial, including access to Sesay himself, exploring the contradictions of a man who dealt in blood diamonds, commanded child soldiers and was blamed for mass atrocities against civilians, while also being credited by some with single-handedly ending the war.
The prosecution, led by Stephen Rapp (who was recently appointed Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues by President Obama), argues that the trial is supposed to assess the guilt of those at the top, who routinely turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of men under their command. Wayne Jordash, Sesay’s lead defense lawyer, counters that his client was an uneducated young man who was coerced into fighting. Moreover, he says, “Any process which isn’t prepared to examine itself is fundamentally flawed. You [the Special Court] have such an impetus towards convicting everybody before the Court, and that doesn’t lend itself to a truth-finding process.” Saying that he believes the Special Court has an important place, Sesay offers his own version of the war.
While the trial is underway in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, the Outreach Group of the Special Court visits rural communities to answer questions and show videotape of the proceedings. While some people feel the trial is positive and a step towards the country’s reconciliation, others are angry, believing some of the millions of dollars it cost to build the Special Court would have been better allocated to citizens to alleviate the immediate damage of the war.
During the trial, the prosecution has former RUF soldiers testify against Sesay, sometimes paying their expenses and relocating them for their protection. Prosecutor David Crane admits that testimony from former RUF soldiers is problematic but necessary, likening it to “dancing with the devil.”
With conviction looming, the defense lays out what it considers Sesay’s mitigating circumstances. When RUF leader Foday Sankoh was arrested and imprisoned at the end of the war, Sesay became the interim leader. Pressured by principals of neighboring West African countries to disarm the RUF, he ended the civil war without further bloodshed – and without negotiating a deal for his own amnesty. The Special Court subsequently sentences Sesay to 52 years in prison.
Following his own trial and the conclusion of WAR DON DON, Sesay has been in the news again, testifying at The Hague (along with Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow, among others) in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. In his testimony, Sesay continues to attempt to assert his voice as the Special Court writes a history of the Sierra Leone conflict.
Today, Sierra Leone is a peaceful nation, but after two successful democratic elections, it remains the third-poorest country in the world.
Rebecca Richman Cohen, who is a Harvard Law School graduate and has a background in human rights and criminal defense, was a legal intern for the defense team on another case in the Special Court of Sierra Leone during the trial of Issa Sesay. She says, “I hope WAR DON DON offers an insider’s view about the complex moral, political and legal questions that issue from rebuilding lawless and war-torn nations – and will inspire thoughtful debate about the future of international criminal justice.”
WAR DON DON is directed and produced by Rebecca Richman Cohen; produced and edited by Francisco Bello; executive produced by Jim Butterworth and David Menschel; co-producer, Daniel Chalfen; composer, Max Avery Lichtenstein.
Posted by Antony Adolf on September 23, 2010 at 12:13 PM in Africa, Art, Conflict Resolution, Critical Theory, Culture, Current Events, Film, History, International Relations, Multilingualism, Peace, Peacekeeping, Policy, Politics, War and Conflicts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Chicago, Documentary Film, Facets, Genocide, HBO, Issa Sesay, Rebecca Richman Cohen, Revolutionary United Front, RUF, Sierra Leone, War Crimes, War Crimes Trial, War Don Don
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