13 May 2020

Riyaz Naikoo’s Neutralization: Undue Adulation Can Prove Counterproductive – OpEd

Nilesh Kunwar

Neutralising Riaz Naikoo, the self-styled ‘operation commander’ of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) is no doubt a spectacular and praiseworthy achievement for the security forces and intelligence agencies.

Whereas this is certainly a setback for the HM, but at the same time to say that Naikoo’s removal from the scene will have a major adverse impact on terrorism in Kashmir is not only farfetched, but also misleading. Its farfetched, because Naikoo may have been conferred with an impressive sounding title of ‘operation commander’, but in reality, he was just a mere supervisor who faithfully executed orders passed down to him by his masters from across the Line of Control (LoC).

So, opining that his death is a ‘major blow’ to terrorism in Kashmir in effect amounts to conveying the specious impression that Naikoo was some sort of irreplaceable icon, a rallying point for youth picking up guns or an ideologue whose absence will create some sort of void. While there’s no doubt that he had a charismatic personality and good oratory skills, which he fully exploited, but at the end of the day Naikoo was (just like his predecessors), nothing more than an elevated pawn, whose replacement will not be hard to find. We have been seeing this for the last three decades since terrorism erupted in J&K.

Why Indian Economy Needs China Even If It’s a ‘Hostile’ Neighbour


Like the nationwide lockdown, the lockdown on Chinese investments announced last month must be seen as an emergency measure to buy time to figure out what to do. And like the nationwide lockdown, the blanket restrictions on Chinese investments must be lifted as soon as we have figured out how to manage the risks. Prolonging lockdowns beyond the minimum necessary period extracts undue economic costs, exacerbating pain and suffering, impacting livelihoods and delaying a quick restart of our economic engines.

Even before the pandemic crisis, policy towards Chinese investments had to contend with a dilemma: how do we design fair regulations when Chinese money is desirable in some areas, and undesirable in others.

The main complication is that it is difficult to pinpoint the boundaries between a private Chinese firm and the Communist Party of China. It is prudent to assume that the difference — especially since the Xi Jinping regime — is practically irrelevant, and Chinese companies are or can easily become Beijing’s proxies.

Why Even ‘Hostile’ China is Good For Indian Economy

Will COVID-19 Reshape Nepal’s Diplomacy?

By Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Nepal has long faced a great many diplomatic challenges, from striking a balance among major powers to securing international assistance — whether grants, loan, or Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) — to meet its domestic development aspirations. But the country will face an even tougher foreign policy environment after COVID-19.

As in the past, Nepal will have to strike a balance in dealing with its two giant neighbors, India and China. At the same time, Nepal must work hard to maintain cordial relations with Western powers, including the United States. There are already some pending issues that will shape Nepal’s diplomacy moving forward. So far, it doesn’t seem that COVID-19 will bring significant changes in Nepal’s bilateral relations with big powers. Major powers such as India, China, the United States, and Germany have announced cash and logistical assistance to help Nepal deal with COVID-19.


Hard Times Don’t Make Strong Soldiers

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“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.” The quote, from a postapocalyptic novel by the author G. Michael Hopf, sums up a stunningly pervasive cyclical vision of history. The idea, which I have termed elsewhere “the Fremen Mirage” after the science fiction novel Dune’s desert-dwellers, posits that harsh conditions make for morally pure and militarily strong people, while wealth and sophistication make for decadent societies and poor fighters. Dune is just one example of the numerous speculative fiction novels that use the idea, from the Conan stories to dreadful Star Trek episodes. It is so common as a popular theory of history and military power that it has spawned (like most bad ideas) its own genre of internet memes.

It also infects modern strategic thinking, especially about non-Western foes. Perhaps most famously, after the attack on Pearl Harbor collapsed complacent notions of American superiority, the Allied intelligence community swung wildly from the belief in the Japanese as weak and unmanly to notions of how the harsh conditions of training and life in Japan had churned out apparently unstoppable supersoldiers. More recently, the same trope has reemerged in the invincible insurgent, whose upbringing supposedly renders him immune to the deprivations of combat and campaigning. As the University of Birmingham researcher Patrick Porter notes, “commentators have claimed that Iraqis, Afghans, Yugoslavs, Amerindians, Somalis, Turks or Japanese are particularly predisposed to war,” either to justify or caution against military action or diplomatic engagement. Because it contains within it an assessment of the military strength and combative stubbornness of foreign cultures, the mirage naturally brings strategic implications with it.

Taliban Attacks Increased After Peace Agreement: U.S. Government Report

by Matthew Petti 

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad will travel to Qatar this week and “meet with Taliban representatives to press for full implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” the State Department said on Wednesday. 

Khalilzad’s trip comes on the heels of a U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report that revealed that the Taliban have actually stepped up their attacks on the U.S.-backed government of Afghanistan after the Trump administration signed a peace deal with the Islamist rebels in February 2020. 

The U.S. government watchdog report—and Khalidzad’s trip—raise questions about whether the agreement can hold Afghanistan together after U.S. troops leave. But the peace process seems to have at least prevented attacks against the U.S.-led international coalition in Afghanistan, the main condition of the peace deal that calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from the Central Asian nation. 

Taliban fighters did not attack Coalition forces in the month of March, according to SIGAR’s latest quarterly report, which was published last week. 

The Gathering Storm

As I write this in late April, the most probable course of the coronavirus (a.k.a. Flu Manchu) is that it is at or past its peak medically and case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths will decline steadily hereafter. Economically, the country will have one bad quarter and come back quickly.

But there is another possibility. The country will not recover economically, or at least will take a long time to do so. While the medical threat from the virus will diminish, the public’s fear will not. Restaurants, bars, stores, hotels, etc. will reopen, but people won’t come in adequate numbers so that anyone can make a profit. Instead of businesses rebounding, business failures will become more numerous. That in turn will create growing unemployment. At the same time that demands on state services increase, state revenues will plunge further. All over the country, individuals, businesses, cities, and states will be screaming for more federal help as other sources of money dry up.

The federal government will oblige, adding many trillions more to the four-plus trillion dollars the Treasury and the Fed have already committed. But that will make other lenders increasingly uncomfortable, so private lending will dry up. As the sea of freshly printed money deepens, more and more people around the world will begin to question the safety of the dollar. Inflationary pressures will rise.

Irresponsible Superpowers Must Cooperate

Amitav Acharya
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WASHINGTON, DC: In the Covid-19 pandemic, neither China nor the United States has offered a creditable performance, and this puts immense pressure on the multilateral system.

Most countries escaped SARS-CoV-1 in 2003. The virus hit 26 countries and only eight Americans tested positive for SARS, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The United States and many other nations were not prepared 15 years later when a new coronavirus emerged, much more threatening to lives and well-being. The SARS-CoV-1 virus infected just over 8,000 people worldwide and left 774 dead. By comparison, with SARS-CoV-2, nations report more than 3.1 million confirmed cases, with 225,000 deaths. As I wrote in 2003, such perils, rooted in globalization, cannot be defeated permanently.

If there was no coverup, why is China opposing an inquiry?

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China insists it has been fully transparent and hidden nothing on the killer coronavirus, whose international spread from Wuhan has turned into the greatest global disaster of our time. So why is Beijing rancorously opposing an independent international inquiry into the origins and spread of the coronavirus?

The lethal virus emanated from China, leading to a paralyzing pandemic. The mounting socioeconomic costs of the unparalleled global crisis will remain immeasurable. In this light, is it unreasonable that the world wants to know how and why it happened?

Investigating the pandemic’s genesis is critical for another reason — this is not the first deadly disease to spread globally from China. A Chinese coverup of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak triggered the world’s first 21st-century pandemic. Getting to the bottom of how the latest pathogen flared and spread is essential for designing rapid-response efforts to prevent a future local disease outbreak from spiraling into yet another pandemic.

When Governments Switched Their Story From ‘Flatten The Curve’ To ‘Lockdown Until Vaccine’ – OpEd

By Ryan McMaken*

In the early days of the COVID-19 panic—back in mid-March—articles began to appear pushing the idea of “flattening the curve” (the Washington Post ran an article called “Flatten the Curve” on March 14).

This idea was premised on spreading out the total number of COVID-19 infections over time, so as to not overburden the healthcare infrastructure.

A March 11 article for Statnews, summed it up:

“I think the whole notion of flattening the curve is to slow things down so that this doesn’t hit us like a brick wall,” said Michael Mina, associate medical director of clinical microbiology at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s really all borne out of the risk of our health care infrastructure pulling apart at the seams if the virus spreads too quickly and too many people start showing up at the emergency room at any given time.”

In those days, it was still considered madness to suggest outlawing jobs for millions of Americans or “shutting down” entire national economies in an effort to flatten the curve. Thus, the article lists far more moderate mitigation strategies:

By taking certain steps—canceling large public gatherings, for instance, and encouraging some people to restrict their contact with others—governments have a shot at stamping out new chains of transmission, while also trying to mitigate the damage of the spread that isn’t under control.

Spain-China Relations And COVID-19: The Bright And Dark Sides Of A Necessary Partnership For Spain – Analysis

By Mario Esteban and Ugo Armanini*
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The COVID-19 crisis may be a turning point for China’s foreign relations. This paper analyses its impact on Spanish-Chinese relations, an issue of particular importance from a European perspective.

As to whether COVID-19 will bolster or erode China’s international influence, for the time being there is no qualitative change in Spanish-Chinese relations. This does not mean that the crisis has no bearing on the evolution of bilateral relations, as it has, but rather that it boosts different trends that balance each other out. China has established itself as a key partner for Spain while at the same time certain governance shortcomings and limitations to its cooperation have become apparent. This has increased the perception of China as a threat amongst the Spanish public, which at the same time has come to identify China as its second preferred ally outside the EU. Furthermore, relations with China are entering Spain’s political debate for the first time due to the far-right VOX.


Don't Be Fooled by China's Mask Diplomacy

by Jeffrey W. Hornung

We've seen something like this before. Straight from its well-versed playbook, China has gone on a “charm offensive” to try to make the world forget Beijing's culpability in the coronavirus crisis. This time, the charm offensive comes in the form of masks and ventilators.

A decade ago, it was common to hear China advocate for its peaceful rise. Regional countries had nothing to worry about, or so the narrative went. That charm offensive turned out to be a ruse. By the mid-2010s, China had embarked on an aggressive maritime campaign against its neighbors. Whether it was employing military and paramilitary assets against Japan in the East China Sea or pursuing large-scale artificial island building in the South China Sea, the peaceful rise narrative proved to be a distraction from Beijing's true intentions.

Echoes of this behavior can be seen in China's response to COVID-19 and behavior vis-à-vis its neighbors. Despite China's denial, there is ample evidence to believe that the coronavirus began in China. Early on, Chinese leadership apparently knew the epidemic was out of control. Worse, it hid the extent of the outbreak from the international community, doing everything in its power to cover up its culpability.

COVID-19 Is Accelerating Trends in the US-China Relationship

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Economic analysts see a closing window for U.S. policymakers to engage with Chinese counterparts on areas of mutual interest and benefit.

Some are expecting the COVID-19 pandemic to hasten a more tense era of geopolitical and military competition between Washington and Beijing, akin to the Cold War. But economic experts say that the United States and China are more like a pair of divorced, resentful parents who share custody of a child. There will be opportunities for collaboration and partnership, but fewer each day as the couple drifts apart. Policy makers, they say, would do better to spend their limited time in search of opportunities to work together on shared interests, not quickening a final split with fiery rhetoric.

Instead, much of Washington appears drunk on China-bashing, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others, like Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Tenn, suggesting (and then walking back) that China may have engineered COVID-19 in a lab. Some hawks in Washington have pushed for greater economic penalties on China for its role in underplaying the dangers of COVID-19. A GOP strategy memo leaked last month to Politico helps explain why: focusing on China gives Republicans something to talk about that isn’t Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, announced the creation of a new China Task Force, composed of 14 House Republicans. McCarthy’s recieved criticism for refering to COVID-19 as the “Chinese coronavirus.” He’s said that the task force may spend some time investigating the origins of the virus, even though the U.S. Intelligence Community and the World Health Organization have both said it occurred naturally. 

Turkey’s Looming Gordian Knot


Turkey is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and is helping other countries do the same. However, the health crisis has exposed the country’s vulnerabilities because of its political, economic, and foreign policy choices. Maintaining these choices in the midst of a global recession will be a tall order.

From a sanitary standpoint, and political scuffles apart, Turkey’s health system seems to be coping well with the pandemic. Ankara is also helping a number of countries, ranging from Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, to countries in the western Balkans and Africa. Its carefully choreographed delivery of a consignment of six pallets of medical supplies to Washington, D.C. on April 28 was accompanied by a letter from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan telling President Donald Trump that he was “a reliable and strong partner of the United States.”

The not so subliminal message was that Turkey expects to avoid anticipated U.S. sanctions for its S-400 missile deal with Russia and wants to benefit from a “swap scheme” implemented by the U.S. Federal Reserve for countries most affected by Covid-19.

However, this “Covid-19 diplomacy” will hardly hide the more problematic realities that Turkey faces in its political, economic, and foreign affairs. For starters, the country presents all the trappings of a full autocracy. Freedom of speech and freedom of media are severely limited. The judiciary is politicized. Opposition leaders are verbally assaulted on a regular basis, when not harassed or even dismissed. Prisoners of opinion are kept in jail while organized crime figures have been freed under special Covid-19 legislation.

US military poised for post-pandemic shift

By John M. Donnelly
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The novel coronavirus pandemic may soon lead to big changes in the U.S. military.

COVID-19 has torn apart U.S. society so much that it is redefining national security, defense and what constitutes a threat — and ultimately will force a reordering of military priorities, practices and policies, some experts argue.

As of last week, the disease has killed — in less than three months — more Americans than perished in 14 years of war in Vietnam. The percentage of jobless U.S. citizens is expected to near Great Depression levels. COVID-19’s impact in lost lives and livelihoods has already dwarfed that of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The last time the United States faced this kind of a major threat, one that has been this disruptive to the nation, was the Second World War,” said David Barno, a retired Army lieutenant general who once commanded U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Against this backdrop, an increasingly vocal chorus of experts says, the U.S. military cannot proceed with business as usual. It should probably spend less overall and certainly less in particular on heavy weapons, overseas deployments, excess infrastructure and large active-duty units, the critics say.

Warheads and ventilators

Planting Trees Is No Panacea For Climate Change

Restoration ecologist Karen Holl has a simple message for anyone who thinks planting 1 trillion trees will reverse the damage of climate change.

“We can’t plant our way out of climate change,” says Holl, professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz and a leading expert in forest restoration. “It is only one piece of the puzzle.”

In a commentary that appears in Science, Holl and coauthor Pedro Brancalion, a professor in the Department of Forest Sciences at the University of São Paulo, endorse the benefits of trees but caution against a simplistic view of tree-planting as a panacea for environmental degradation.

“Trees are deeply entrenched in the human psyche,” said Holl, a restoration ecologist who has prepared hundreds of students for careers in environmental stewardship. “It’s very satisfying to go out and put a tree in the ground. It’s a concrete, tangible thing to do.”

But broad-scale tree planting initiatives, such as 1t.org and the Trillion Tree Campaign, must be undertaken carefully and with a commitment to long-term management, if the benefits are to be fully realized.

Democracies Have an Edge in Fighting Wars

By Dan Reiter and Allan C. Stam

People have long assumed that autocrats and dictators have an advantage in waging war. Today, as the novel coronavirus sweeps across the globe, there is some speculation that autocracies have an edge in fighting that war, too. Autocrats can potentially enforce shelter-in-place orders more effectively and use their surveillance abilities to better engage in contact tracing.

These concerns are without foundation. Contrary to popular beliefs, democracies are more effective in responding to various crises. Our political science research found that democracies are more likely than autocracies to win their wars. From 1816 to 1987, democracies won about 76 percent of their wars, while nondemocracies won about 46 percent of their wars. Even more striking, democracies rarely lose when they start wars, winning 93 percent of the time. 

What is true of wars against armies is also true of a campaign against disease. Past studies have found that citizens in democracies are healthier than citizens living under tyranny and that democracies suffer lower mortality rates than dictatorships in epidemics. Analyses of responses to the current pandemic have already found that once the tenth coronavirus case was reported, democracies were faster than dictatorships to close schools. There is good reason to think that the attributes that make democracies perform better in wars—especially accountable leaders and superior information flows—make them more effective in fighting the coronavirus as well.


Can we escape from information overload?


One day in December 2016 a 37-year-old British artist named Sam Winston equipped himself with a step-ladder, a pair of scissors, several rolls of black-out cloth and a huge supply of duct tape, and set about a project he had been considering for some time. Slight and bearded, with large grey-blue eyes, Winston had moved to London from Devon in the late 1990s. He supported himself through his 20s and 30s by teaching, doing illustrations for magazines and selling larger, freer-form artworks, many of them pencil-drawn, to collectors and museums. He had just collaborated on a children’s book with author Oliver Jeffers, and done his part to propel “Child of Books” up the bestseller lists. Grateful as he was for commercial success, Winston found he disliked corporate publishing. All the emails! He saw himself as a lead-smudged idealist, an artist-hermit at heart. He’d been troubled by nervous energy and stress since he was young, was an intermittent insomniac, had difficulty filtering noise and distractions in public spaces, and was someone who – like so many of us – increasingly relied on his phone and computer. So Winston decided to hole up for a few days. No screens. No sun. No visual stimulation of any kind. He was going to spend some time alone in the dark.

It took him hours, climbing up and down the ladder in his studio, to cover every last aperture and pinprick of inbound light. The studio, in a converted factory in east London, has large tenement windows and a sloped roof inlaid with skylights that were especially tricky to seal. By Winston’s conservative estimate he used 200 metres of duct tape before he was fully satisfied that here, at last, was darkness. He would sit in it, drawing with pencil and paper, doing yoga, snacking a bit, waiting to see if the dark had any sort of palliative effect.

The Putin Regime Cracks


President Vladimir Putin’s clever maneuver to dispense with the Russian constitution’s provisions on presidential terms limits will, in theory, allow him to stay in office until 2036. Yet by rewriting the constitution and reshuffling the government, Putin did far more than throw most of the Russian elite off-balance. Putin’s efforts signal that he is building a new political regime that will be more conservative, more ideological, and more anti-Western in its outlook.

Everything is not going to plan, however. The planned reconfiguration of Russia’s political system has been complicated by the collapse of global oil prices and the unprecedented disruption caused by the coronavirus. The April 22 quasi-referendum to “approve” the constitutional amendments is now on hold while the Kremlin tries to deal with both the virus and a new economic crisis. These twin challenges represent the biggest shock the Putin regime has ever faced and are likely to feed popular dissatisfaction.

Tackling this crisis successfully requires a well-planned collective effort by the Russian leadership. Unfortunately, the pandemic is casting a harsh spotlight on a long-running reality: Putin has become increasingly disengaged from routine matters of government and prefers to delegate most issues to others. During the initial phase of the crisis Putin has repeatedly called on his new government and regional governors to bear even heavier responsibilities.

Can Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci Serve President Trump in Good Conscience?


How should a decorated public health professional serving in the White House react when the president of the United States stands next to her and openly muses about the medical potential of injecting disinfectant? This is the moral dilemma facing Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, Robert Redfield, and other physicians and scientists coordinating the government’s pandemic response. When President Trump offers sorcery over evidence-based medicine — as when he said, in February, that warm weather would make the coronavirus go away, or when he touted the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” before it was adequately studied — an expert can’t ethically stand by, tight-lipped, saying nothing. She has two choices: She can either quit or object.

Except the public health experts working for Trump don’t truly have either of those options. If they complain, publicly or even privately, there is ample reason to believe that Trump will shut them out, feel provoked and turn away from their sound, lifesaving counsel. (That’s how he treated Jeff Sessions and Marie Yovanovitch when they tried to take the high road.) And if they quit, there is ample reason to believe that the president will replace them with someone worse: a crony who lacks their expertise or capability. (The current defense secretary, attorney general and acting director of national intelligence were all brought in to replace agitators and proffer the advice Trump wants to hear.)

It is, truly, an impossible position, so don’t begrudge their work. Given the stakes, they have to stay.

Travails of an Interconnected World: From Pandemics to the Digital Economy

By Ariel E. Levite, Lyu Jinghua 

The novel coronavirus poses a grave threat to national economies, human society and our globalized international order that will not go away soon. It’s obviously essential to focus on managing the outbreak and restarting the global economy.

But at the same time, we ought to start thinking about some broader strategic lessons to draw from the pandemic. One of the most striking is how vulnerable our tightly intertwined and interdependent international system is. The world has quickly and extensively become addicted to huge benefits and conveniences associated with a global, generally open system. The system allows for the relatively free flow of goods and services, specialization, and decentralization. But this reliance carries important downsides; the coronavirus spread across the globe, and its impact unraveled important supply chains.

This carries an important lesson for the cyber domain. Our goal here is to draw an analogy between pandemics and cyberattacks to highlight some insights from the current crisis about cyber risks as well as potential remedies for these vulnerabilities.

U.S. Cyber Command’s Malware Inoculation: Linking Offense and Defense in Cyberspace

Erica D. Borghard is an Assistant Professor in the Army Cyber Institute at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a Senior Director on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Shawn W. Lonergan is a Senior Advisor to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, and a U.S. Army Reserve Officer assigned to 75th Innovation Command. Their views are personal and do not reflect the policy or position of the Army Cyber Institute, U.S. Military Academy, 75th Innovation Command, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.

There is a misperception (partly stemming from inconsistent government messaging) that the concept of “defend forward,” articulated in the 2018 Department of Defense (DOD) Cyber Strategy, is purely offensive and thus escalatory in nature. The DOD strategy defines defend forward as “disrupt[ing] or halt[ing] malicious cyber activity at its source, including activity that falls below the level of armed conflict.” In implementing this activity, U.S. military cyber forces must operate outside of what the U.S. military calls “blue space” (U.S. domestic cyberspace), in “red space” (adversary cyberspace) and “gray space” (everywhere else).

How cross-domain technologies can help the military modernize

Eric Trexler and Retired Maj. Gen. Joseph Brendler

In modern day military construction projects, IT infrastructure is as essential as plumbing or electrical systems. But that infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex and costly to maintain. Physical footprints have become unwieldy and difficult to manage. Meanwhile, legacy IT systems, often in the form of space-consuming hardware, can be security liabilities.

To address these challenges, the U.S. military has opted to take a “hard-right turn” into Enterprise-IT-as-a-Service. With Enterprise-IT-as-a-Service, the military is willing to invest in services, rather than hardware, to achieve their infrastructure reduction and efficiency goals.

Although this method requires accepting some level of risk, the upshot is that the Army can prioritize which components to modernize, rather than try to tackle everything at once.

As the military takes this hard-right turn, it should look to cross-domain solutions (CDS), which can replace a large amount of very costly physical infrastructure and provide better overall security.

The Paths to Net Zero

By Inês Azevedo

For 30 years, diplomats and policymakers have called for decisive action on climate change—and for 30 years, the climate crisis has grown worse. There are a multitude of reasons for this failure. The benefits of climate action lie mostly in the future, they are diffuse and hard to pin down, and they will accrue above all to poor populations that do not have much of a voice in politics, whether in those countries that emit most of the world’s warming pollution or at the global level. The costs of climate action, on the other hand, are evident here and now, and they fall on well-organized interest groups with real political power. In a multipolar world without a responsible hegemon, any collective effort is difficult to organize. And the profound uncertainty about what lies ahead makes it hard to move decisively. 

These political hurdles are formidable. The good news is that technological progress can make it much easier to clear them by driving down the costs of action. In the decades to come, innovation could make severe cuts in emissions, also known as “deep decarbonization,” achievable at reasonable costs. That will mean reshaping about ten sectors in the global economy—including electric power, transportation, and parts of agriculture—by reinforcing positive change where it is already happening and investing heavily wherever it isn’t. 

Why the Covid-19 Crisis Offers an Opportunity for Lasting Change in Cybersecurity

By Lennart Maschmeyer

Millions are now working from home with unfamiliar software, providing massive opportunities for malicious actors. In response, volunteers from the information security sector have formed collaborative initiatives to disseminate urgently needed information to the public. This post examines how the current crisis conditions enabled the formation of the COVID-19 Cyber Threat Coalition (CTC), the largest of these initiatives, based on an interview with the founder. It also identifies an opportunity to institutionalize a similar, need-based threat information platform through government action.

The Problem: Information on Cyber Threats is Scarce and Unevenly Distributed

Since the start of the crisis, over three billion people have experienced life under lockdown conditions and hundreds of millions have switched to working from home, having to adapt to unfamiliar software and services for remote work. Such services have not always been designed with sufficient security and have become immensely attractive targets. Providers are also scrambling to manage the explosion in user numbers. All of these conditions, combined with the elevated stress and anxiety created by the crisis experience, are producing increased vulnerabilities nefarious actors can exploit. Accordingly, there are widespread reports of an increase in malicious activity, including targeted efforts to exploit prevailing fears. Depressingly, some malicious actors have even continued to target critical health infrastructure in pandemic-stricken countries.

Designers of small rugged computers for the battlefield balance size, performance, and cooling

Jamie Whitney
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Forward-deployed computer systems, servers, and vehicle-mounted laptop computers need to be as tough as the warfighters that use them. Industry experts note that small rugged mobile computers and network equipment for military vehicles and command posts have increasing amounts of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components so the technology can be serviced at the base instead of waiting for specialized parts or sending the system back state-side. 

Panasonic Corp. of North America, based in Newark, N.J., has been the standard bearer of vehicle-mounted, ruggedized computers with their Toughbook series.

Scott Heckman, Panasonic’s national sales manager for their U.S. Army and Special Operations Command (SOCOM)