In a conflict as grisly as Syria’s civil war, getting humanitarian aid to those who need it can be a life-threatening affair. Fortunately for those hoping to help, data from sources like Twitter, YouTube, and a range of others lets researchers turn war into a giant data science project, helping understand the tension between groups, how armed they are, and where they’re headed next.
One year ago, Palantir Technologies donated their data organization software to nonprofit the Carter Center. “We wanted to see who the biggest fish amongst the opposition are, everyone relates to one another, and who’s funding who,” says Christopher McNaboe, who works on the Syria Conflict Mapping project. Now that the the U.N. has granted unauthorized border crossing into Syria to provide relief, that data can finally be put into action.
The terror group in Syria and Iraq publishes an annual report, operates “like an army that has state-building ambitions.”
To honor D-Day’s 70th anniversary on June 6, this visualization splices photos of France and England in 1944 with images taken today.
Over at the Guardian, award-winning Getty Images photographer Peter Macdiarmid lets us peel back layers of history with a haunting then-and-now photo series of D-Day. Its 70th anniversary is upon us: On June 6, 1944, in what would become the largest seaborne military invasion in history, 160,000 Allied troops stormed a 50-mile stretch of coastline in Normandy, France, to fight Nazi Germany.
"Their [vicemag] tone absolutely resonates with the Call of Duty audience. That’s all we asked for—apart from tying it into the premise of the game—just tell the story and let the insanity of the reality speak for itself.”
In early January, a Reddit user posted an emotional story about waking up on a beach and befriending a fellow lost soldier. But the soldier’s health began to deteriorate. And the author was eventually forced to kill his friend with the other man’s own gun to end his suffering. “His voice gone, I sat there staring at my monitor and began to cry,” the Redditor wrote. “I’ll never see that friend again and I miss him very much.”
"God damn," wrote a commenter. "Alright I’m getting this game."
The writer was playing DayZ, a zombie apocalypse multiplayer PC game that sold its 1-millionth download last week, less than a month after its Dec. 16 release. That release is only the game’s early-access alpha version, which developer Dean Hall will be enhancing and improving for most of the next year before launching it in beta. But even at this stage, the reason for DayZ’s enormous success is becoming clear—the game play leads to a degree of psychological tension and emotional response that players report never before experiencing in a computer game.
E.B. Boyd, embedded reporter in Afghanistan, profiles the leadership transition from the Marines to the Afghan National Army, and the effort and innovation behind it.
Did you know that as climate change increases, so does violence?
"Every time someone comes to Syria Deeply, I feel like they’re coming over to my house for dinner. What will I serve them today?”
Lara Setrakian (No. 20) shares her approach to content on her site, Syria Deeply, which has redefined conflict coverage.
These are some of my favorite images from the new book Soldier Dogs. There are more pictures in our slideshow today.
Military Working Dogs play a crucial part in America’s armed services. The best known “Soldier Dog,” Cairo, put crucial canine skills to work in the SEAL Team Six operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. Other Military Working Dogs serve as everything from bomb sniffers to troop companions to search and rescue dogs (and also serve in darker roles, such as duty at Guantanamo Bay). Their handlers and trainers, devoted dog lovers down to a man, form an unusually close-knit fraternity within the military.
A beautiful slideshow from NPR’s David Gilkey, who is embedded with the 2-27th Infantry in Kunar Provence, Afghanistan
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a big problem in the military, but a study shows that virtual reality therapy may help afflicted soldiers. From FC.com:
The idea behind exposure therapy is for people with PTSD to relive their traumatic experiences in a safe environment. Traditionally, the way therapists would help soldiers access their painful memories was by asking them to vividly imagine the sights and sounds of war. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) takes matters a step further by actually presenting those sights and sounds.
The findings are part of a four-year study conducted by the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology, which partnered with the Defenses Center for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury and the Department of Psychology at Madigan. VRET uses 360-degree interactive computer-generated environments, according to the Army, running a program called “Virtual Iraq.” Patients wear a head-mounted display, while the doctor orchestrates the relevant stimuli—helicopters overhead, gunfire, or even a Muslim call to prayer. A typical session lasts 90 minutes.
VRET isn’t entirely new; it had been shown to be effective in Vietnam veterans and survivors of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Literature on the therapy extends back at least to 1999. But the recent study extends its relevance to active-duty populations.
Dr. Greg Reger, lead author of the study, also thinks that since this generation of soldiers was reared on technology, it makes sense virtual reality would appeal to them. Said Reger in a press release: “It is possible that virtual reality exposure therapy would provide a more appealing treatment option to a young, technologically savvy generation of service members and veterans. In addition, it is possible that a treatment option like virtual reality exposure would be viewed by some service members as less stigmatizing than traditional treatment approaches,” thereby accessing service members who otherwise wouldn’t seek treatment. In other words: while seeing a shrink is embarrassing for certain soldiers, a video game is pretty cool.