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Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence

September 25, 2014 Comments off

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence
Source: RAND Corporation

All roads lead to Damascus and then back out again, but in different directions. The financial and military aid flowing into Syria from patrons and neighbors is intended to determine the outcome of the conflict between a loose confederation of rebel factions and the regime in Damascus. Instead, this outside support has the potential to perpetuate the existing civil war and to ignite larger regional hostilities between Sunni and Shia areas that could reshape the political geography of the Middle East. This report examines the main factors that are likely to contribute to or impede the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency in Syria, and then examines how they apply to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.

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Shining a Light on State Campaign Finance: An Evaluation of the Impact of the National Institute on Money in State Politics

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Shining a Light on State Campaign Finance: An Evaluation of the Impact of the National Institute on Money in State Politics
Source: RAND Corporation

The National Institute on Money in State Politics collects, processes, and makes public information on campaign contributions made to state-level candidates for public office. The Institute asked the RAND Corporation to probe user perspectives on the Institute and its data, on how the data are being used, and on how the utility of the data might be improved in the future. Drawing on experiences of a variety of users, as well as a review of the publications that have used the Institute’s data and research reports, this report provides an evaluation of the Institute’s impact on the public discourse over campaign finance at the state level. It is our view that the Institute serves an important purpose — to undertake the collection, centralization, and dissemination of state-level campaign finance data. No other organization has been successful in this effort or is likely to be so. All the audiences that the Institute seeks to engage have found value in the Institute’s efforts. The most successful of these are the scholarly, journalistic, and advocacy communities. The interviewees we spoke with were impressed, felt indebted to the Institute, and expressed an inability to do the sort of research, reporting, and advocacy on state campaign finance without the Institute. Overall, a variety of influential users engaged in campaign finance and public policy view the Institute’s work as being of high quality and adding value.

The Health Risks of Bathing in Recreational Waters: A Rapid Evidence Assessment of Water Quality and Gastrointestinal Illness

September 18, 2014 Comments off

The Health Risks of Bathing in Recreational Waters: A Rapid Evidence Assessment of Water Quality and Gastrointestinal Illness
Source: RAND Corporation

The European Bathing Directive (2006/7/EC) stipulates water quality standards for recreational bathing waters based on specified limits of faecal indicator organisms (FIOs). Presence of FIOs above the limits is considered to be indicative of poor water quality and to present a risk to bathers’ health. The European Bathing Directive (2006) is to be reviewed in 2020. We conducted a rapid evidence assessment on recreational bathing waters and gastrointestinal illness (GI) to identify the extent of the literature published since the previous review period in 2003 and to determine whether there is any new evidence which may indicate that a revision to the Directive would be justified.

Overall, 21 papers (from 16 studies), including two RCTs, met the inclusion criteria; 12 were conducted in marine waters and four were conducted in freshwater. Considerable heterogeneity existed between study protocols and the majority had significant methodological limitations, including self-selection and misclassification biases. Moreover, there was limited variation in water quality among studies, providing a limited evidence base on which to assess the classification standards.

Overall, there appears to be a consistent significant relationship between faecal indicator organisms and GI in freshwater, but not marine water studies. Given the apparent lack of relationship between GI and water quality, it is unclear whether the boundaries of the Bathing Waters Directive are supported by studies published in the post-2003 period. We suggest that more epidemiological evidence is needed to disprove or confirm the original work that was used to derive these boundaries for marine waters.

Assessing Locally Focused Stability Operations

September 17, 2014 Comments off

Assessing Locally Focused Stability Operations
Source: RAND Corporation

This report describes how the Army and other services can better measure and assess the progress and outcomes of locally focused stability operations (LFSO), which are defined as the missions, tasks, and activities that build security, governance, and development by, with, and through the directly affected community, in order to increase stability at the local level. A number of issues related to assessing LFSO are identified, along with foundational challenges that include an inherently complex operational environment, limited doctrinal guidance, competing visions of stability, untested assumptions, and redundant or excessive reporting requirements. The report offers solutions to these and other challenges, and provides concrete recommendations and implementation-related guidance for designing and conducting assessments of LFSO. The report concludes with an assessment plan for a notional African LFSO scenario that illustrates the practical application of those insights.

Ramifications of DARPA’s Programming Computation on Encrypted Data Program

September 16, 2014 Comments off

Ramifications of DARPA’s Programming Computation on Encrypted Data Program
Source: RAND Corporation

Programming Computation on Encrypted Data (PROCEED) is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program whose primary purpose is to improve the efficiency of algorithms that allow people to carry out computations on encrypted data — without having to decrypt the data itself. RAND was asked to evaluate whether PROCEED — which expands the knowledge base of the global cryptographic community — is likely to provide more benefits to the United States than it does to its global rivals. The research team’s assessment focused on the degree to which PROCEED technologies may be adopted, under what circumstances, and for what purpose. The team then used the analytic framework generated to understand technological uptake decisions as a way of ascertaining how such factors would work in Russia and China vis-à-vis the United States (and, by extension, countries similar to the United States).

Analysis of online searches for information about data encryption, information security, and data protection in Russia and China concluded that, given government approval of PROCEED technologies, their diffusion will be more rapid in China than in Russia. Whether PROCEED technologies will be adopted in the face of the processing penalties that will be associated with using them is difficult to determine at this time. If PROCEED is adopted, it is likely to be adopted more rapidly in the United States (and similar developed countries) than it is in Russia and China, in large part because PROCEED is compatible with the U.S. political culture, and in smaller part because it better accords to the U.S. business environment.

UK — Living Room Connected Devices: Opportunities, security challenges and privacy implications for users and industry

September 8, 2014 Comments off

Living Room Connected Devices: Opportunities, security challenges and privacy implications for users and industry
Source: RAND Corporation

RAND Europe was commissioned by Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, to investigate and prepare an independent expert report on the growth of the connected living room and the implications of this growth for UK citizens and consumers. As the living room becomes an Internet connected space, this shift offers opportunities to consumers and industry while also raising potential privacy and security concerns. Although currently a nascent market, the uptake of living room connected devices is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. However, it appears that there is a low awareness of how the capabilities of living room connected devices might be used, either legitimately by industry or illegitimately by criminal actors. This report addresses the security and privacy implications of the Internet connected living room for both industry and consumers, discussing potential benefits and emerging threats associated with living room connected devices and their technical capabilities.

Portfolio Assessment of the Department of State Internet Freedom Program

September 5, 2014 Comments off

Portfolio Assessment of the Department of State Internet Freedom Program
Source: RAND Corporation

The struggle between those promoting Internet freedom and those trying to control and monitor the Internet is a fast-paced game of cat and mouse, and the DRL Internet freedom program seeks to fund projects that promote preserving the open character of the Internet. Employing portfolio analysis techniques, the authors assessed DRL’s Internet freedom portfolio for fiscal year 2012–2013. The assessment showed good alignment between the State Department’s strategy and the cumulative effect of the 18 funded projects. Additionally, the portfolio was assessed to be well balanced with an unrealized potential for supporting emergent State Department needs in enlarging political space within authoritarian regimes. The assessment revealed that the investment in developing Internet freedom capacity and capabilities would likely have residual value beyond the portfolio’s funded lifespan, with positive, but indirect, connections to civic freedom. Moreover, promoting Internet freedom appears to be a cost-imposing strategy that simultaneously aligns well with both U.S. values and interests, pressuring authoritarian rivals to either accept a free and open Internet or devote additional security resources to control or repress Internet activities. Finally, the authors determined that the value of such analysis is best realized over multiple stages of the portfolio’s lifecycle. Among the authors’ recommendations were for DRL to enhance the synergy within the portfolio and among its grantees and to maintain a relatively balanced Internet freedom strategy that includes projects working on access, anonymity, awareness, and advocacy.

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