24 April 2020

The new patterns of islamist militancy in Kashmir

By Roland Jacquard
The early phase of militancy in Kashmir was witnessed in the late 1980s. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which believes in independence of Kashmir was leading the anti-India ‘movement’ then. The JKLF was amongst the first few outfits to recruit and train Kashmiri youth in a rebellion against the Indian state. However, by 1990 the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, an outfit which declared its objective to be Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan started to dominate Kashmir militancy. The Hizbul drew its cadres mostly from Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) J&K, a religo-political organisation.

Thereafter, other outfits like Al-Jihad, Muslim Janbaz Force, Al-Umar Mujahideen, Al-Barq and dozens of smaller groups were propped up across the length and breadth of the Valley by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Inspired by the success of the Afghan Jihad, the deep state of Pakistan instigated a widespread insurgency in Kashmir with an aim to push India out of J&K. ISI’s strategy got a fillip due to the widespread outrage in J&K over the cases of rigging in the State Assembly elections in 1997. As a result, a large number of Kashmiri youth exfiltrated across the border (known as the Line of Control)into Pakistan to join the training camps in Pakistan administered Kashmir.

Does The U.S.-Taliban Deal Devalue American Sacrifices And Betray The Afghan People?

By Iqbal Dawari 
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The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and NATO forces observed mutual truce for three days over the Eid ul-Fitr holiday in June. In an earnest statement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that his government was ready for “comprehensive peace and talks” and that he would be willing to discuss all Taliban concerns, including “the future role of international forces” in the country. President Ghani’s historic speech aimed to build on the extraordinary success of the truce’s first day Friday, in which pictures of thousands of Taliban members, government troops, and civilians celebrating the Eid holiday together across the country flooded social media.

A remarkable shift in U.S. policy on peace negotiations with the Taliban also formed new momentum after Washington came to the predictable conclusion that it must give up on a military solution and embrace negotiations with the Taliban. Having decided to accelerate peace talks, and speak directly with the Taliban during a new round of peace negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed veteran diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad as Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation in September 2018 aimed at eventually winding down America’s longest war. The United States and the Taliban have since held several rounds of negotiations in Doha. Khalilzad’s stated position at the commencement of the talks was that there were four topics to discuss and that these topics were tied into a package. The principle was reflected in the phrase “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

Privacy and the Pandemic: Time for a Digital Bill of Rights

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In the United States, the coronavirus’s spread is rapidly undermining fundamental norms. Barely month ago, China’s lockdown seemed a draconian imposition by an authoritarian state. Now even the most libertarian-leaning U.S. states are implementing similar measures out of necessity. While severe outbreaks have likely peaked in parts of the country, the nation as a whole is set to endure what will be a lasting pandemic. Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, has warned that the surge in deaths on the East Coast will be akin to Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

As was the case following both of those catastrophes, a rapid restriction of civil liberties may seem necessary as governments fight to control the situation. The coronavirus pandemic has already caused public-health imperatives to collide with democratic principles as core as the freedom of movement. More limitations on civil liberties are likely to come—most crucially in the digital sphere. But history shows that there is little reason to believe that the end of the immediate threat will result in a loosening of those strictures.

The Next Pandemic Might Not Be Natural

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Was the new coronavirus cooked up in a lab? That’s the current conspiracy theory spreading across the globe. From Iran to Russia to the United States, conspiracy theorists and scheming political operatives are making wild accusations with absolutely no evidence to back them up, whether they blame Chinese researchers or the U.S. military. At present, all the data suggests that this virus—which has sickened more than 2.4 million people, killed over 167,000, devastated the entire world economy, and pulled off a trick the Soviet Navy only dreamed of by neutralizing a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier—originated in the natural world. But what if the next one doesn’t?

Germs have killed more people than all the wars in history, and people have been trying to make use of them throughout all those wars. Even before humans knew about the existence of microbes, they fumbled about with infected arrowheads, catapulted plague corpses, and, most infamously, dispatched smallpox-soaked blankets. While the scientific revolution helped humans battle these horrible diseases, it also helped them inflict those diseases on each other, from the World War I German experiments with infecting allied livestock to the massive, and largely forgotten in the West, Japanese germ attacks on China (which may have caused upwards of 200,000 deaths) in World War II to the colossal bioweapon stockpiles of the Cold War, which, at least in one case, caused a Soviet anthrax version of Chernobyl.

Safeguarding Europe’s livelihoods: Mitigating the employment impact of COVID-19April 2020 | Article

By David Chinn, Julia Klier, Sebastian Stern, and Sahil Tesfu

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After weeks of determined public-health efforts, Europe appears to have bought itself a much-needed moment of relief in the fight against COVID-19. Even in heavily affected countries such as Italy and Spain, infection rates have started to slow down, mostly because of the stringent lockdown measures enacted by governments. However, with the absolute numbers of infections and deaths still on the rise, and the grim economic consequences of lockdown and physical-distancing regulations slowly materializing, leaders still face the dual imperative of safeguarding lives and livelihoods.

The 2008–09 financial crisis provides a sobering analogy: it began as a financial shock but soon spilled over into the real economy. The COVID-19 pandemic, in turn, is a public-health crisis that is now beginning to take its toll on the real economy—primarily because the lockdown measures that were taken to protect lives have severe consequences for businesses and their employees. With economic activity in many sectors having ground to a near standstill, many businesses are struggling to uphold their financial obligations. And with uncertainty looming large, many companies are considering adjustments in their workforce. This could potentially put millions of jobs at risk through reductions in hours or pay, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs.

China, COVID-19 and 5G; Golden Opportunity For The West


Wars and pandemics, great destroyers of the status quo, often generate enormous societal change. An outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease in the early 20th century, for example, gave the internal combustion engine a permanent lead over steam-powered automobiles. The First World War saw more improvements in aeronautical engineering and airplane manufacturing than the previous decade. 

The unprecedented global shut down that has seen perhaps half of humanity locked down has generated enormous demands for Internet access, especially broadband. The sudden confinement of so much of the world’s work force has led to a massive increased demand for broadband, and not simply for entertainment. Telework, telemedicine and a major increase in videoconferencing are all major parts of the new work environment. Verizon, for example, has seen a 20 percent increase in Web traffic, a 12 percent increase in video services. 

Many experts have predicted demand for broadband will greatly increase in coming years, especially for 5G networks capable of handling massive data flows at speed. The need would rapidly grow, as smart cities and autonomous vehicles became a reality. But the shift to telecommuting has likely accelerated that demand, shifting it to an immediate need. That demand for increased connectivity is not likely to completely recede even after COVID-19 is overcome, any more than public horse troughs returned after the hoof-and-mouth outbreak ended. Instead, if living in dense urban conurbations is seen as posing a growing health risk, a subsequent population shift toward suburbs and rural areas will only further heighten demand for extensive nationwide 5G access. 

It’s Not Too Late to Go on Offense Against the Coronavirus

By Jim Yong Kim
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For weeks now, we’ve watched the covid-19 pandemic spread across the United States. During much of that time, it’s seemed like the only thing to do is hunker down, wait, and hope. We hope that a vaccine will arrive, even though we can’t be sure how long that might take, or whether an effective vaccine is even possible. We hope that those who have had the virus will be able to return to work—never mind that we have yet to see proof of durable immunity. Maybe wearing masks and sheltering in place will make the virus recede. Perhaps summer will kill it, even though it has spread in the year-round heat of Singapore and other places. We seem to be hoping that something miraculous will happen—that, somehow, the virus will leave of its own accord.

In the nineteen-nineties, as a co-founder of the global organization Partners in Health, I helped fight multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in the developing world. In the early two-thousands, I led the World Health Organization’s H.I.V./aids department; afterward, as the president of the World Bank, I took on cholera in Haiti and Ebola in West Africa. I’ve been fighting pandemics for most of my adult life. That front-line experience has taught me that hope is a wonderful thing, essential to any difficult undertaking. But, especially when it comes to infectious disease, hope is of little use unless it’s accompanied by a bold and vigorous plan.

The Internet After COVID-19: Will We Mind the Gaps?


When it comes to the Internet, the COVID-19 crisis is teaching us that we’re so much better off than we could have been, but not as good as we need to be.

First, some good news. Had the pandemic occurred ten years earlier, there would be no Zoom for office workers, no remote learning for kids, no Netflix binge-watching at scale. Back then, the average download speed for wired broadband in the US was 4.1 Mbps. Working or taking classes are home at those speeds would have been unthinkable. Yet today, with an average of nearly 140 Mbps, it is suddenly being done by tens of millions.

COVID-19 is a stress test for many systems in the United States, most critically in our health, government, education, media, retail and financial services sectors. All of them are now depending more than ever on the Internet to serve their users. Network demand for some applications has experienced increases as much as 200% in the last month.

The current health crisis will likely peak some time this year, but our intensified reliance on digital technology will not. After the crisis, the challenge for policymakers and industry leaders will be to analyze the results of that stress test and take whatever actions they require, including more efforts to close the digital divide.

How China Sees the World and how we should see China

Karan Singh
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I. The Forbidden City

On November 8, 2017, Air Force One touched down in Beijing, marking the start of a state visit hosted by China’s president and Communist Party chairman, Xi Jinping. From my first day on the job as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, China had been a top priority. The country figured prominently in what President Barack Obama had identified for his successor as the biggest immediate problem the new administration would face—what to do about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. But many other questions about the nature and future of the relationship between China and the United States had also emerged, reflecting China’s fundamentally different perception of the world.

Since the heady days of Deng Xiaoping, in the late 1970s, the assumptions that had governed the American approach to our relationship with China were these: After being welcomed into the international political and economic order, China would play by the rules, open its markets, and privatize its economy. As the country became more prosperous, the Chinese government would respect the rights of its people and liberalize politically. But those assumptions were proving to be wrong.

Can Japan Successfully Decouple From China?

By John Lee

The jury is still out regarding the Abe government’s decision to allocate 243.5 billion yen (about $2.25 billion) from its stimulus package to help Japanese firms move manufacturing supply chains out of China. Why do it when the world is suffering a pandemic-induced shutdown affecting all major economies? Will decoupling supply chains from China work? And why put at risk the diplomatic rapprochement with China that has been occurring since 2019?

There are still few details at this early stage, and we will not know for some time whether the Japanese policy will be a wise or counterproductive one. But the intent and timing might well prove inspired.

To be sure, the American success in repatriating supply chains from China has been modest. The 2017 reduction in corporate tax rates, meant to encourage American multinationals to bring home offshore accumulated profits, led to about $500 billion entering the country in 2018 alone. However, much of it was used for stock buy-backs and increased dividend payouts rather than investing in new supply chains within the country.

China Bashing Won't Help Trump Get Re-Elected

by Jacob Heilbrunn Follow Jacob

Despite—or because of?—his daily press conferences, President Donald Trump’s popularity ratings have been steadily sinking. A Gallup poll has his approval at 43 percent and his disapproval rating at 54 percent. As former Vice-President Joe Biden remains immured in his Delaware basement, what can Trump do to bolster his standing?

One faction in his administration has apparently concluded that he should focus on tearing down Biden over his stands on China rather than tout his own accomplishments. Instead of presenting himself as a wartime president, as he has previously indicated, the Washington Post reports that the White House is leaning towards a strategy of focusing on Biden’s past statements on China and his son Hunter Biden’s ties to its companies. Their B & B strategy—Biden and Beijing—is supposed to put Trump over the top in November.

In contrast, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel believe that the focus of the campaign should be on Trump’s ability to create an American economic comeback. Conway explains, “Any campaign ads should show the commander in chief, the wartime president, signing $2 trillion in relief for Americans, deploying the USNS Comfort, working with Democratic governors and G-7 leaders, standing from the podium flanked by Drs. Fauci and Birx, mobilizing the private sector.”

How Coronavirus Puts the Focus on Social Class and Mobility

by Robin Cohen

The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the salience of class to the spread, containment and impact of infectious diseases. The virus hitches a ride on us, the humans who act simultaneously as its hosts and victims. Human mobility and immobility – who can and can’t move and why – is therefore crucial to understanding the virus. And these issues of mobility have significant class dimensions.

Some researchers have argued in recent years that we are living through an “age of migration”, characterised by international movements of people. Yet the coronavirus crisis also shows this is an age of involuntary immobility for many people around the world.

One of the earliest cases in the UK of COVID-19, the disease linked to the new coronavirus, concerned a businessman who had contracted the virus in Singapore in January 2020. He passed it to others in a French ski resort, before returning to the UK and spreading the virus in his home city, Brighton. He carried the virus while asymptomatic, so bears no moral responsibility. However, his privileged lifestyle and ability to travel internationally provided the virus with an effective delivery service.

Those who could, moved

What Do You Need and Want During Coronavirus?

by Grant Alexander Wilson

Beyond its unprecedented health and social implications, COVID-19 has had catastrophic effects on the global economy.

Between January and March 2020, the world economy contracted by 12 per cent. In response to this economic crisis, G20 governments have pledged more than $5 trillion in relief and stability initiatives. Either directly or indirectly, every country, institution, industry, sector, business, individual — and all aspects of the global economy — are negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Economic effects in Canada

Similar to other G20 countries, the Canadian government unveiled an initial aid package of $82 billion. The package includes $27 billion in emergency aid designed to help Canadians pay for essentials such as rent and food. With more than four million Canadian individuals and families living in rental properties, the government of Canada recognized the importance of including explicit funding to meet the needs of renters.

Saving our livelihoods from COVID-19: Toward an economic recoveryApril 2020 | Article

By Andres Cadena and Fernando Ferrari-Haines

The pandemic could give rise to a new era of human development. Otherwise, economic and social development may falter for decades.
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Saving our livelihoods from COVID-19: Toward an economic recovery

We are now living through the most uncertain moment of our times. Many countries have been in lockdown since early March 2020. Even Japan, once a beacon of hope for controlling COVID-19, is now moving toward total isolation. Many political leaders realize that physical distancing might be the norm for at least several months. They wonder how—or if—they can maintain indefinite lockdowns without compromising the livelihoods of their people.

Political leaders aren’t alone in their fears. As the pandemic continues its exponential course, workers in most countries wonder what will become of their jobs when the lockdowns end. Businesses struggling to pay their employees and cover operational costs wonder if they will have clients or customers when they reopen. Banks and investors realize that many companies, especially small and midsize ones, will default and are trying to protect both financial stability and public savings. Meanwhile, governments are working to calculate the magnitude of the shock and sharpening their tools to save economies from collapse. They know that history will judge them by the decisions they make now.

We Are Living in a Failed State

George Packer

When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.

Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.

A Global Crisis Like No Other Needs A Global Response Like No Other

by Kristalina Georgieva
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I have been saying for a while that this is a “crisis like no other." It is:

More complex, with interlinked shocks to our health and our economies that have brought our way of life to an almost complete stop;

More uncertain, as we are learning only gradually how to treat the novel virus, make containment most effective, and restart our economies; and

Truly global. Pandemics don’t respect borders, neither does the economic shocks they cause.

The outlook is dire. We expect global economic activity to decline on a scale we have not seen since the Great Depression.

This year 170 countries will see income per capita go down - only months ago we were projecting 160 economies to register positive per capita income growth.

Actions taken

There’s No Such Thing as Good Liberal Hegemony

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Can we talk about something else for a moment?

Although it is nearly impossible to wrest one’s mind away from COVID-19 and its implications, I’m going to give it a shot this week. I want to explore a topic that my students and I were discussing a few days ago, in a class on realist and liberal conceptions of world order. The question was whether the U.S. attempt to create a liberal world order during the brief “unipolar moment” was doomed from the start.

To be more specific: are the criticisms that I (and others) have leveled at the U.S. strategy of “liberal hegemony” really fair? Is it possible that creating a global order based on liberal values (i.e., democracy, free markets, the rule of law, individual rights, etc.) was more feasible than it now appears? Might this strategy have succeeded if U.S. leaders had been a little smarter, less arrogant, a lot more patient, and a bit luckier? Was liberal hegemony really “bound to fail,” as John Mearsheimer suggested last spring, or were there plausible courses of action that would have led to the steady expansion and deep embedding of liberal values and institutions around the world? In the unlikely event that the United States found itself in a similar position of primacy again, could it learn from its past mistakes and do better the second time around?

Oil Price Nosedive Continues as Trump’s Deal Fails to Deliver

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The oil market’s unprecedented convulsions continued Tuesday, with steep falls in benchmark crudes in both New York and London a day after a historic plunge sent U.S. oil prices into negative territory for the first time ever. The oil collapse is due almost entirely to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of economic activity across much of the world, which has dried up global demand for oil even as producers keep pumping out near-record volumes. And it’s a reflection that U.S. President Donald Trump’s brokered agreement this month with Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other big oil producers to curtail production has so far done nothing to reassure the oil market—making another big agreement, or dramatic, unilateral U.S. action, increasingly likely.

How on earth did the price of U.S. oil fall to almost -$40 a barrel on Monday?

The unprecedented collapse in the price of a key U.S. grade of oil is due to a combination of factors. Oil storage space is rapidly filling up, which leaves few places to stash physical barrels of oil that come out of the ground. And the May futures contract, which fell so sharply on Monday, expires April 21—which forced traders still holding that contract to liquidate it any way they could, forcing the price ever lower.

America’s Abandonment of Syria

By Luke Mogelson

By the time Turkey invaded northern Syria, in October, the Ain Issa refugee camp—twenty miles south of the Turkish border—resembled a small city. In recent years, some fourteen thousand people had moved there, displaced by isis, Russian and American air strikes, or the repressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The camp had evolved from a few tents in a muddy field into a sprawling grid complete with shops, cafeterias, falafel stands, schools, clinics, mosques, a full-time administration, and offices of more than two dozen local and international N.G.O.s. As news spread of the Turkish offensive, Nashat Khairi, a camp mukhtar, or selected representative, urged the roughly thirty families in his section to remain calm. A fruit vender before the war, Khairi had fled his village, in the eastern province of Deir Ezzour, with his wife and seven children, after isis captured it, in 2014. They reached Ain Issa three years later. Since then, the camp had come to feel like home. Khairi knew everyone in his section, oversaw the distribution of food rations, registered every birth, and seldom missed a wedding or a funeral. His children received an education and had access to health care. His wife earned a salary as a cleaner. They never went hungry. In cold weather, the camp provided kerosene for their stove, and during the summer they kept their tent cool with a fan powered by a generator. Outside their entryway, Khairi tended a small garden, with neat rows of radishes and bell peppers.

This piece was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Britain has 139 tons of plutonium. That’s a real problem.

By Christopher Fichtlscherer, Friederike Frieß, Moritz Kütt
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The United Kingdom’s last plutonium reprocessing plant, B205, located in Sellafield in northern England, will shut down by the end of 2020. It will bring an end to the era of plutonium separation in the country, which began 68 years ago. Because the United Kingdom never used any of the material it recouped from reprocessing except in nuclear weapons, today it has amassed a stockpile of almost 139 metric tons of separated plutonium.

This creates lasting problems: Plutonium stored in Sellafield is highly toxic and poses a permanent risk of proliferation. It is enough material to build tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. According to parliamentary estimates, storage will cost the British government about 73 million pounds a year for the next century. But after decades of public and private consultation, there is still no accepted plan for its disposition. In the meantime, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is working on the consolidation of the stockpiles in Sellafield and developing the capability to retreat the packages to allow for long-term storage once the government makes a final decision on permanent disposal. The United Kingdom views the material as a resource and is pursuing options that involve burning the plutonium in reactors, even though multiple assessments have shown risks associated with such a choice, namely immature concepts and technology. A better alternative would be to treat it as waste and begin planning for its permanent immobilization and burial.


By John McLaughlin

The COVID-19 crisis cries out for a coordinated global response. However, conditions in the United States and international politics generally do not favor that right now — all the more regrettable in light of other building threats, such as climate change, that will also demand multilateral action.

My March 19 OZY column on COVID-19 anticipated problems that have become more visible: turbulence in the medical supply chain, stresses within the U.S. military, divisions within alliances such as the European Union, rising illness totals in less-developed parts of the world. Now it’s time to look at some longer-term questions that arch over these specific developments. Here are three.


With COVID-19, everyone on Earth for the first time since World War II is touched by danger at a personal level. The 9/11 attacks had enormous impact, but it was localized, visible and ultimately manageable. The 2008 financial crisis spared many from its worst effects. With COVID-19, no one is spared the danger, and social distancing is so far our only defensive tool.

COVID-19: Turning Point for Globalization?

Hans Yue Zhu
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NEW HAVEN: Over the past few decades, globalization represented the growing interdependence of economies, cultures and populations across the world, along with prosperity and rapid economic growth. Yet, modern globalization with liberal travel and trade also became a catalyst for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Built on the theoretical foundations that champion specialization and international trade, most people were enthusiastic about a globalized community, and few cast doubt on the outgrowth of globalization. As economist Anne Krueger observed, “growth prospects for developing countries are greatly enhanced through an outer-oriented trade regime.” The value of global exports in 2007 was more than 20 times that of 1950. Benefitting from economic integration and outward-oriented trade regime, South Korea and China followed Japan’s rapid growth and became prosperous in their own right. Empirical evidence has corroborated the theoretical basis that globalization benefitted the rich and poor countries alike, despite some scholars pointing out how globalization has heightened inequality within countries. For example, China’s Gini coefficient increased from 0.25 in the mid-1980s to more than 0.45 in 2009 after its integration into the global system.

What To Do When North Korea Lashes Out During the Coronavirus

By John Dale Grover

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un still denies that his country suffers from the coronavirus. But reports in South Korean media seem to indicate otherwise, suggesting as many as 180 dead and 24,842 released from quarantine. In fact, Pyongyang has already ordered tough social distancing measures that are hurting North Korea’s already-strained economy. When North Korea is hurting, it has a history of lashing out, hoping to start negotiations for aid or sanctions relief. On Tuesday, this happened again: North Korea fired cruise missiles off its east coast. To avoid falling into another escalation cycle, Washington must have a plan for the next time Pyongyang acts up.

Washington does not have the bandwidth or resources to fight another major war and this is made clearer by the coronavirus crisis. Since social distancing measures began in the United States, 16.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment. The U.S. economic toll is still rising and may end up costing $4 trillion. Americans do not want another war and North Korea has deadly nuclear missiles that can probably reach most U.S. cities. These are sound reasons why Washington should not overreact to North Korea’s resumption of its habitual missile tests.

What all policy analysts need to know about data science

Alex Engler

Conversations around data science typically contain a lot of buzzwords and broad generalizations that make it difficult to understand its pertinence to governance and policy. Even when well-articulated, the private sector applications of data science can sound quite alien to public servants. This is understandable, as the problems that Netflix and Google strive to solve are very different than those government agencies, think tanks, and nonprofit service providers are focused on. This does not mean, however, that there is no public sector value in the modern field of data science. With qualifications, data science offers a powerful framework to expand our evidence-based understanding of policy choices, as well as directly improve service delivery.

To better understand its importance to public policy, it’s useful to distinguish between two broad (though highly interdependent) trends that define data science. The first is a gradual expansion of the types of data and statistical methods that can be used to glean insights into policy studies, such as predictive analytics, clustering, big data methods, and the analysis of networks, text, and images. The second trend is the emergence of a set of tools and the formalization of standards in the data analysis process. These tools include open-source programming languages, data visualization, cloud computing, reproducible research, as well as data collection and storage infrastructure.

The Defense Department Needs a Real Technology Strategy


Defense Department leaders agree the U.S. military must reinvigorate its technological edge. They just can’t agree on which technologies matter. Nor do they appear to be laying out arguments that would help the rest of the Pentagon, lawmakers, and industry understand which technologies will matter most in tomorrow’s wars, and therefore which should receive top priority in terms of effort and funding. In short, DOD needs a technology strategy. 

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work made artificial intelligence and autonomy the centerpiece of his “Third Offset Strategy.” Current Defense Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin has called hypersonics his top priority, with directed energy a close second. That would seem to be at odds with his boss, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has declared AI his “number one.” Yet the past two years have seen Griffin issue formal guidance about 10 to 13 “priority” technologies, with AI, hypersonics, and nuclear modernization occupying the top spot, depending on the list. But they can’t all be number one, and conflicting guidance from senior DoD leaders isn’t helpful for establishing real priorities in defense spending.