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Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit 2016 in Indonesia pledges to cut sources of Terror Funding

73 Malaysian nationals have joined or attempted to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, and at least 19 have been killed

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A picture from the summit Image source: straitstimes.com
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  • The Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit was held from August 8- 11 August 2016
  • The summit was held in Bali, Indonesia and was co-hosted by Australia’s and Indonesia’s financial intelligence agency
  • Several countries have pledged to cooperate in strengthening intelligence efforts by cutting off funding sources of terrorists, even if they change their methods

Nusa Dua, Indonesia, August 14, 2016: The Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit that was held from August 8 – 11 August 2016 brought together leaders and experts in counter-terrorism financing and financial intelligence from 26 nations to deliver the first Regional Risk Assessment on Terrorism Financing.

The summit was held in Bali, Indonesia and was co-hosted by AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency and its Indonesian counterpart financial intelligence unit Pusat Pelaporan Dan Analisis Transaksi Keuangan (PPATK). They co-led the research and development of the regional risk assessment, with contributions from the FIUs of Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. With all the reports, they were successful in identifying and understanding the full extent of the threats posed by terrorism financing in the region of Southeast Asia and the Australian region.

With all the reports, they were successful in identifying and understanding the full extent of the threats posed by terrorism financing in the region of Southeast Asia and the Australian region. The four major financial risks to the region were identified as- self-funding from legitimate sources, at-risk non-profit organisations (NPO), fundraising through social media and crowdsourcing, and criminal activity. The risks were assessed in a 48-page document titled- the Terrorism Financing Regional Risk Assessment 2016 report that was published at the meeting.

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When one path is disrupted, terrorists adapt and change their financing methods. Now, the use of stored value cards has increased. The cards can be loaded with cash or through any non-reportable electronic method and easily carried to another country. Cards can be reloaded remotely and anonymously by third parties, meaning that the face value of some cards can understate their value, said the Benar News report.

The report stated that Indonesia is at high-risk zone for each of the four sources. Malaysia for self-funding from legitimate sources and fundraising through social media; while Thailand is at high-risk for self-funding and also at-risk through non-profit organisations.

According to Benar News report, Indonesia faces a high threat of terrorism due to the involvement of Indonesians in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, while the status of risk in Malaysia elevated because of threats posed by IS and foreign terrorists.

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Bali summit agrees to stronger collaboration to combat terrorism financing Image Source: thejakartapost.com
Bali summit agrees to stronger collaboration to combat terrorism financing Image Source: thejakartapost.com

“Malaysia continues to be a transit country for recruits for terrorist groups active in other countries,” the report said. 73 Malaysian nationals have joined or attempted to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, and at least 19 have been killed, reported Benar News.

The primary method for a tactical, short-term purposes for small-scale attacks in Malaysia is self-funding. The report also stated that a terror group in Indonesia used legitimately sourced funds to finance military training.

Though Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) in Thailand have diverted money to fund various groups in the country’s Deep South, the level of misuse of NPOs to fund terrorists is lower than expected across the region, stated the report.

Malaysia’s efforts to eradicate terror funding was praised. “in contrast to many regional countries, Malaysia has conducted a comprehensive risk assessment of the sector and has adopted target approaches to risk mitigation.”

Calling the online faction of terrorist funding largely opportunistic, the report states that terrorists are more likely to use it for communication to solicit and broadcast calls for funding rather than actually collecting funds through social media.

Criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, theft and robbery remain a key source for funding terrorist groups. The report stated, militants in Indonesia rely on the violent robbery to raise funds while in Thailand, they mainly depend on extortion to raise funds, though they also steal cars and smuggle oil to raise money.

Several countries have pledged to cooperate in strengthening intelligence efforts by cutting off funding sources of terrorists, even if they change their methods. They have outlined a roadmap to combat terrorism in the next Summit that is slated to be held in Malaysia, next year, in 2017.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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Electric Fields Used By Spiders To Take Flight: Research

Charles Darwin remarked on the behavior when tiny spiders landed on the HMS Beagle, trailing lines of silk.

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A spider sits in her web. Researchers from England think spiders might be sensing and using electrostatic fields to become airborne.
A spider sits in her web. Researchers from England think spiders might be sensing and using electrostatic fields to become airborne. VOA

Since the 1800s, scientists have marveled at how spiders can take flight using their webbing. Charles Darwin remarked on the behavior when tiny spiders landed on the HMS Beagle, trailing lines of silk. He thought the arachnids might be using heat-generated updrafts to take to the sky, but new research shows a totally different cause may be at play.

Erica Morley and Daniel Robert from the University of Bristol in England were interested in exploring a second explanation for the spiders’ ability. They thought spiders might sense and use electrostatic fields in the air.

“There have been several studies looking at how air movement and wind can get spiders airborne, but the electrostatic hypothesis was never tested,” Morley told VOA.

Some observers suggested electrostatic fields might be the reason the multiple draglines some spiders use to float don’t get tangled with each other. Biologist Kimberley Sheldon from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who was not involved in the new research, pointed out that “though these spiders will have five or six draglines, those strands of silk do not get entangled. So we’ve known for a while that electrostatics probably [are] at least interacting with the spider, with the silk lines themselves, to keep them from getting tangled.”

Morley and Robert created a box with a grounded metal plate on the bottom and a plate on the top that they could pass an electrical current through. The scientists placed spiders in the box and turned on the voltage, watching as the creatures reacted to the electric field.

Reaction to current

When the electric field was on, the spiders lifted their abdomens into the air and started tiptoeing by raising up on the very ends of their legs. Morley told VOA that spiders only tiptoe right before they release silk draglines to fly away, in a process called ballooning.

And when the spiders did balloon and rise into the air, turning off the electric current caused them to drop.

Sheldon compared it to taking a balloon and rubbing it against your clothing. “If you hold the balloon [near your head], your hair stands on end. That’s kind of what’s happening with the spider silk.”

Spiders Use Electric Fields to Take Flight: Research
Spiders Use Electric Fields to Take Flight: Research. Pixabay

Clearly the spiders were able to sense the local electrostatic field and respond appropriately by releasing silk, but Morley and Robert wanted to know how.

“As a sensory biologist, I was keen to understand what sensory system they might use to detect electric fields,” said Morley. “We know that they have very sensitive hairs that are displaced by air movements or even sound. So I thought that it’s possible that they might be using these same hairs to detect electric fields.”

This was exactly what she observed. The small hairs along the spiders’ legs react not only to physical experiences like a breeze but also to the electric field. In nature, it makes sense for spiders to sense both the electrostatic field around them as well as wind conditions. Spiders probably use both when taking off and navigating the skies.

Mathematician Longhua Zhao from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland has made computer models of how spiders balloon. She told VOA, “I think that both the electrical field and the fluid mechanics [of air flow] are important. They definitely play very important roles. However, we don’t know at this point which is the dominant factor.”

Also read: Did You Hear about the New Species of Spiders Named After Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernie Sanders and Barrack Obama?

Lead researcher Morley pointed out that spiders aren’t the only invertebrates to balloon. “Caterpillars and spider mites, which are arachnids but not spiders, balloon as well.” Morley hopes to see others follow up her research to see if these other animals respond in a way similar to the spiders. (VOA)