18 May 2020

Groups ask India to rescind Gilead's COVID-19 drug patent

Two health advocacy groups have written to the Indian government asking it to rescind patents given to Gilead Sciences for the drug remdesivir so it can be distributed more fairly to coronavirus patients around the world, particularly in poorer nations.

Drug patents in India are an important issue as many countries depend on generic drugmakers to manufacture and sell cheaper versions of critical drugs to them. Gilead's three patents in India for remdesivir stem from 2009, when the drug was in development to treat Ebola.

Remdesivir is the only drug approved to treat COVID-19 after promising early trial results prompted United States regulators to grant emergency use authorisation on May 2.

To expand its access, Gilead said this week that it had signed nonexclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them to make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.

But health access groups say the pacts mean cheaper forms of the drug may not become available in nations seen as nonprofitable to the five drugmakers.

How Effective Is Pakistan’s Newly Established National Commission for Minorities?

Umair Jamal

Last week, Pakistan’s government announced the formation of the National Commission on Minorities (NCM). The government has acclaimed the development of the commission as a major step toward a religiously inclusive Pakistan. The commission not only includes members of the Parsi and Hindu communities, but also appointed a member from the Hindu community as its chairman.

However, there are some major constitutional flaws in the commission that emphasize that the body is hardly set up to address the woes of minority communities in Pakistan.

In general, the development is a welcome move in a country where minorities’ constitutional rights do not ensure religious or political freedom. For instance, in Pakistan, a non-Muslim cannot hold the prime minister or president’s office. The creeping Islamization has been directly enshrined into the country’s constitution, which has increasingly made the Pakistani founding father’s commitment of giving equal rights to all citizens an unattainable goal.

Facebook’s Apology for its Role in Sri Lanka’s Anti-Muslim Riots Should Spark Change

By Tasnim Nazeer

Facebook has apologized for its role in Sri Lanka’s 2018 anti-Muslim riots after an investigation found that incendiary content may have led to the deadly violence. 

Facebook’s failure to remove hate speech and disinformation during the 2018 riots resulted in spurring on the deadly violence which had erupted in Sri Lanka. The investigation as carried out by Article One, which published a report as part of a two-year partnership with Facebook, involved conducting assessments into human rights in Sri Lanka. 

Although everyone has the right to free speech, it should not be used as a guise to incite hate against others nor should it be a catalyst for planning attacks against minorities.

The social media giant issued a statement to Bloomberg, “deploring” the misuse of its platform, stating that “We recognize, and apologize for, the very real human rights impacts that resulted.” However, the significant damage, strained relations between communities and rise in Islamophobia is already prevalent in the country and has further fueled tensions.

As a Sri Lankan Muslim myself and journalist who covered the riots in Sri Lanka, I believe that social media platforms like Facebook need to make fundamental changes to their platform to protect minority groups from content that could incite violence against them and further fuel divisions and pre-existing Islamophobia. 

Why Has Covid-19 Hit Seniors So Hard?

IT TOOK SIX weeks, several long, frustrating phone calls, and a consultation with Apple Care before Laurie Jacobs got her 89-year-old father up and running on FaceTime. Jacobs, who is a geriatrician by training and is now the chair of the Department of Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, was worried about how her parents were coping during the pandemic. They live in a long-term care community, but they felt isolated and lonely. Over the phone, Jacobs couldn’t tell how her mother, who has some cognitive decline, was feeling or if she was walking comfortably. “The communication at a distance is very difficult,” she says. “You don’t always get the whole picture with an older adult on the telephone.”

The Covid-19 pandemic presents a doubly complicated situation for older people: Not only are they at higher risk of contracting the disease, and more likely to develop severe infections and die from it, but they are also the most likely to struggle with—and suffer from— the consequences of prevention strategies like social distancing. For people with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or severely reduced mobility, social-distancing guidelines can be impractical and nearly impossible to follow, making prevention and treatment even more complicated.

Why Travel Bans Fail to Stop Pandemics

By Doug Saunders
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If the novel coronavirus pandemic were turned into a movie, a pivotal scene would capture the unforgettable events of Saturday, March 14, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Three days prior, U.S. President Donald Trump had suddenly announced sweeping travel restrictions on most European countries that would go into effect at midnight on Friday, March 13. Although the travel ban was intended to apply only to foreigners, Trump declared on national television that he was “suspending all travel from Europe to the United States,” prompting thousands of panicked Americans to cut short their vacations and business trips and rush back to the United States. Spilling into packed arrival halls, they found themselves shoulder-to-shoulder in nearly motionless customs and immigration lines, healthy travelers sharing the stale air with those who had picked up the virus, some of whom were sweating and coughing. Social media posts from O’Hare showed a seething human mass of contagion as far as the eye could see.

Travelers waited in this tight-packed mob for as long as seven hours before they were “screened”—given a rudimentary questionnaire asking if they felt any symptoms or had been in contact with people known to be infected with the virus. Then most of them were allowed to return to their homes and communities, reportedly without clear instructions to self-isolate or quarantine. Similar scenes played out in at least a dozen other U.S. airports that day. There is no way to know for sure, since the United States had not—and still has not—organized adequate testing or contact tracing, but the airport rush of March 14 may well have set the United States on course to become the most COVID-19-infected country in the world.

How Are Countries Reopening? Firsthand Reports From Around the World


Leave it to the Germans to come up with a sinuous, unpronounceable, and entirely perfect word to describe the slew of debates over how and when to reopen economies locked down due to the coronavirus: Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien, or opening discussion orgies.

These orgies have been unfolding in just about every country that has shut restaurants and schools, grounded flights, and required citizens to stay home. Despite general agreement with lockdown decisions, there are now heated debates about what the new normal should be—and how to get there.

That debate varies, of course, with the progress of the virus. China, where the outbreak originated, has slowly reopened Wuhan. New Zealand says the virus is “currently eliminated” there and is talking about resuming flights to Australia. Brazil locked down its first major cities this week, while other countries, such as Canada, Japan, and Sri Lanka, also tightened rules. And Africa, which was largely spared during the initial wave, is now facing a rising number of cases with only limited medical resources.

How Mark Esper is navigating the coronavirus crisis

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Writing in The National Interest, Michael O'Hanlon argues that "Esper is not a larger-than-life kind of figure like James Mattis was but maybe the country doesn’t need that right now. Instead, Esper sees it as his job to implement Mattis’s 2018 National Defense Strategy, which focuses on great-power competition. He continues to navigate the pandemic with an eye toward the future."

At a time when national and international turbulence have been created to the coronavirus, it is worth taking note of one generally good-news story to date: the American armed forces are holding up well. That may come as a surprise to those who have read about the brouhaha over the USS Theodore Roosevelt a few weeks ago, as well as a few other issues like the temporary suspension of boot camps by some military services. And challenges could increase in the future. But as I learned in an interview with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on May 4, the situation is rather good today.

Start with the simplest metric: out of just over two million Americans who wear a military uniform today, counting 1.3 active-duty personnel and members of the National Guard and Reserve less than five thousand have tested positive for the coronavirus. That incidence rate is about two-thirds the national average. But because the military is predominantly young, serious cases are much less prevalent than in American society. There have been fewer than one hundred hospitalizations and just two deaths to date—less than 1 percent per capita rate in the United States writ large. Also, while the USS Theodore Roosevelt did function as a sort of petri dish for the spread of the virus, most military units are somewhat isolated from those urban centers where the coronavirus has hit the hardest to date. As Esper told me, a deployed ship is actually a great place to avoid the coronavirus provided that no one onboard has contracted it!

How to decouple key supply chains from China | Opinion


The great power competition between Washington and Beijing is heating up. The U.S. effort to contain China’s rise is now on full display, as the Trump administration (rightly) blames China for failing to contain the coronavirus pandemic. But the American desire to isolate China, both politically and economically, is no simple matter. China is either the largest or second largest economy in the world, depending upon the metric. And as a result of our longstanding efforts to seduce the Chinese Communist Party with the perks of capitalism, America and its allies are heavily reliant upon inexpensive Chinese products and Chinese-controlled supply chains.

Amidst the pandemic, the desire to economically decouple from China is immediately encumbered by the fact that China is a key American supplier of medicine (including antibiotics) and medical gear alike. In fact, China is the second largest exporter of drugs to the United States and the single largest exporter of medical devices, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Clearly, America must diversify. And as it turns out, the Middle East may offer attractive alternatives.

The main reason America outsourced this key supply chain to China, in the first place, can be summed up in two words: cheap labor. The cost of producing antibiotics or medical devices would increase, perhaps significantly, if they were to be produced at home. That’s why American partners like Jordan or Egypt, which have their own pharmaceutical production capabilities, can provide a third way. Both countries can offer inexpensive labor. And while production in these countries entails some geopolitical risks, those risks pale in comparison to those of China.

China’s Dual-Capable Missiles: A Dangerous Feature, Not a Bug

By Ankit Panda

Over at Popular Science, Peter W. Singer and Ma Xiu draw attention to China’s DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The DF-26 is not only notable for being a system tailor-made for payload delivery to the U.S. territory of Guam, but for its dual capability. It is currently the longest-range system in the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force explicitly designed for compatibility with conventional and nuclear payloads alike.

As Singer and Ma note, this creates more than a few dangerous scenarios: for instance, in a conflict, the United States would be tempted to target DF-26 battalions to ensure that it could sustain operations into the Western Pacific and past the First Island Chain from its military facilities on Guam. But conducting such an attack would amount to nuclear counterforce given that any given DF-26 launcher could play a role for nuclear retaliation by China.

A separate scenario concerns China launching a conventional DF-26 during a conflict. With space-based early warning sensors able to notify the United States of a launch, planners may reason that such a launch could be a nuclear one. Here, China’s stated posture of No First Use might have little to do in shaping U.S. assumptions, especially as many in the U.S. government (certainly in the Trump administration) already view China’s No First Use declaration with skepticism.

How Will China Shape Global Governance?

Jeremy Youde
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The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations agency charged with guiding the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, has become a battleground for two sparring superpowers. On April 14, 2020, President Trump announced that he would halt U.S. funding for the organization pending a review into what he called the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”

Within a week, China’s government offered $30 million as part of what it described as an effort to “[defend] the ideals and principle of multilateralism.” Earlier in April, China had secured a spot on a panel that advises the United Nations Human Rights Council on personnel appointments. (The Trump Administration pulled the U.S. out of the Council in 2018.) Nearly a third of the 15 specialized U.N. agencies are now led by Chinese appointees.

China has long sought to exert greater influence on global norms and rules across a whole range of issues, from trade, intellectual property, and Internet governance to environmental and labor standards and the definition of human rights, among others. Sometimes China’s officials work within established multilateral organizations and at other times they have created their own alternative China-led entities.

Biosecurity Is the Lesson We Need to Learn from the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Daniel M. Gerstein James Giordano

There is no scientific evidence that the virus that causes the coronavirus was bioengineered. However, that does not mean that humans do not bear some responsibility for this pandemic. Human activities such as disrupting environmental habitats, promoting the mixing of species in venues such as the wet market in Wuhan, and experimenting with pathogens in laboratories all present windows of vulnerability.

To address this, America needs to have a new approach to biosafety and biosecurity that addresses the full range of biological threats that humankind and the global environment will face in the future.

Biological outbreaks have been a fear among experts for decades. The ever-increasing encroachment upon natural habitats has resulted in zoonotic disease spillover to humans. Recent examples include Rift Valley Fever, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, Yellow fever, Avian Influenza (H5N1), Avian Influenza (H7N9), Ebola, West Nile virus, the Zika virus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). In fact, thirty new human pathogens have been detected in the last three decades, 75 percent of which have originated in animals. The latest, of course, is the SARS-CoV-2, which causes the coronavirus.


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A big part of preparing for a human challenge trial is developing a strain of the virus that is safe but will infect most participants. Here is a version of influenza that researchers used in November to infect participants with the ultimate goal of creating a universal flu vaccine.

It’s a controversial idea: Intentionally infect people with the virus that causes Covid-19 to test the effectiveness of a potential vaccine.

The approach is called a human challenge trial, and it’s not the usual way a vaccine is tested. More commonly, researchers track thousands of people, some of whom receive a vaccine, and others a placebo, and then see who becomes infected in the natural course of their lives. It’s a slower process, but poses fewer risks than deliberately infecting people after they’ve received a vaccine.

But some scientists now argue the risks of such a challenge trial are worth taking if it could potentially speed the development of a vaccine. Three groups of health experts have recently published articles advocating for the idea. And the World Health Organization last week published a document outlining criteria for the “ethical acceptability” of a Covid-19 human challenge study.

Views On China’s Economic Resilience And Elasticity – Analysis

By He Jun*
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Talks about China’s economic resilience and elasticity are nothing new. Following the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, as he had done so numerous times in the past, stressed that China is a huge country that is resilient, possesses elasticity, and holds potential as well as plenty of room for maneuverability. He further emphasized that China’s economic strength is particularly adept at preventing risks. In fact, since 2014, Premier Li Keqiang too has repeatedly spoke of China’s economic resilience, having stated, “There has been difficulties yearly for the past few years though it was always successfully overcome. Bearing this year’s difficulties in mind, we must look to stimulate economic resilience and boost motivation.” 

Resilience and Elasticity are terms in physics commonly used to describe a material’s properties. Resilience is defined as a material’s ability to withstand damage when subjected to pressure and/or a substance’s capacity to absorb mechanical or kinetic energy until it is damaged. Meanwhile, Elasticity refers to a material’s ability to return to its original form when force is exerted or the ability to reshape itself after being compressed. Should the material assume a different form upon removal of force and a certain degree of deformation occurs, we call that plastic deformation instead. When said force exceeds the material’s resistance, it will either deform or fracture. A good example to that are shocks caused by fracture stratigraphy under stress, otherwise known as earthquakes. 

How H.R. McMaster sees China: Employing ‘strategic empathy’ to validate his ‘strategic narcissism’

Ethan Paul

Former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s feature story in the latest issue of The Atlantic, “How China Sees the World,” is already drawing comparisons to George Kennan’s 1947 magnum opus on the Soviet Union, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” well-known for inspiring the Cold War doctrine of containment.

Upon first examination, the comparison seems unwarranted. The article’s main thrust has become little more than a common refrain in today’s Washington: The assumptions that have long undergirded U.S. policy towards China — that engagement would inexorably transform it into a liberal market democracy and “responsible stakeholder” in the international system — are no longer compatible with Xi Jinping’s China.

This necessitates, according to McMaster, “a dramatic shift in U.S. policy” to better align it with the limited prospect of transforming China’s one-party system and the expectation that China will ruthlessly wield economic and military power to construct an order consonant with its interests.

For example, McMaster calls for “free and open societies” to actively collaborate in preventing their capital and technology from fueling China’s human rights abuses and military modernization, with these assets redirected at countering China’s global designs, such as Huawei’s apparent efforts “to control communications networks and the internet overseas.”

Oil Price War Puts Entire Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia At Risk

By Simon Watkins 

At no time since Ibn Saud first consolidated his Arabian conquests into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 has the ruling Saud dynasty faced such an existential threat to its continued rule over the country.

It is true that Saudi Arabia has been able to gain some temporary advantage in key Asian export markets, as its shipments to China more than doubled in April to 2.2 million barrels a day (bpd) and those to India, at 1.1 million bpd, were also the highest in at least three years. This, though, as much as any other factor that might endure, was a product of Saudi slashing its official selling prices (OSPs) for April crude sales to some of the lowest levels in decades, undercutting its rivals, and exactly the same happened again for May crude sales.

Even this very slight victory, though, has already been jeopardised by an indication that the scale of the trouble into which the House of Saud has placed Saudi Arabia is truly monumental. Just last week saw massive economic pressure force the Saudis into increasing the June delivery price for its Arab light crude oil to Asia by US$1.40 per barrel from May, albeit at a discount of US$5.90 to the Oman/Dubai benchmark average. Market expectations were that Saudi would continue to keep OSPs low to hold onto market gains.

How AI Will Help America's Warriors Win Tomorrow's Wars

by Kris Osborn

The prominent emergence of AI has in some ways underscored the uniquely dynamic and indispensable qualities of human cognition, if even in a paradoxical way. While AI can process information and perform an increasing range of functions by analyzing and organizing data, Army technology developers consistently emphasize that humans need to remain the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to command and control. Therefore, current Army developers explain that AI can assist, or inform human decision makers by analyzing data, presenting options quickly and performing otherwise overly complex, time consuming or impossible tasks...in seconds. AI, the Army thinking goes, will “assist,” but not replace, human cognition and its many decision-making faculties. 

The progress of AI is, significantly, characterized by a paradox or what might be called a contradiction of sorts. As far as it is going—and the lightning speed at which it is getting there—there are still many unknowns when it comes to replicating human brain functions. Senior scientists at the Army Research Laboratory say that, broadly speaking the functional structure of many AI systems are based somewhat on the vision of mammals; there are biological processes and a certain natural apparatus for receiving and organizing information which computer systems are being engineered to replicate. While this seems both vast and amazing, ARL scientists explain that mammalian vision systems are just one part of the vast and still largely mysterious or unknown functions of the human brain. What about the portions of human cognition that imagine? Certain kinds of creativity? Or the many neurological dimensions to human feeling? Perhaps these questions are part of why the Commander of Army Futures Command, Gen. John Murray, and other service technology leaders emphasize that “humans” must ultimately be making important decisions and in control of “command and control” systems. 

Why Joe Biden Should Fear Donald Trump

by Jacob Heilbrunn 

Former Vice-President Joe Biden handily leads President Donald Trump in most polls. Swing states appear to be moving against him. Seniors are drifting away. The coronavirus continues to rage. So why are so many Democrats so concerned about Biden’s prospect this fall?

One reason is that worrying about Trump’s electoral prowess is a way of avoiding becoming overconfident ala 2016, when Hillary Clinton’s edge over Trump was supposed to be insurmountable. Democrats continue to suffer from a kind of election night PTSD as they contemplate that the inconceivable occurred. Clinton, the standard-bearer of the party, was ousted by a former Manhattan real estate mogul and playboy who stole the lunch money of the Democrats by appealing to working-class voters—the forgotten man that he appealed to in his inaugural address as the assembled Washington elite gaped in amazement at the sight of Trump taking the oath of office.

It could happen again. For all his miscues and foibles and temper tantrums, Trump has displayed a remarkable consistency during his presidency. Throughout, he has maintained an unbreakable rhetorical umbilical cord to his supporters. Whether he guides them or they guide him is an open question. But his ability to adhere to his base remains intact. There are two pertinent examples. The first is the Michael Flynn case. The second is the coronavirus pandemic.

From the Pentagon’s “4+1” threat matrix, to “4+1 times 2”

Michael E. O’Hanlon
Writing in The Hill, Michael O'Hanlon makes the case for an updated Pentagon threat matrix that includes biological, nuclear, climatic, digital, and internal challenges. While this new matrix does not mean cutting the defense budget to fund additional priorities, the challenges O'Hanlon lays out are complicating aspects of the modern world that can make other, more traditional threats more perilous.

For half of a decade, the Defense Department has organized thinking and planning around the five main threats of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and transnational violent extremism or terrorism. In the quarter century before that, the Pentagon built forces more narrowly around a regional war framework that prioritized addressing extremist states such as Iraq and North Korea and, later, the struggle against terrorism.

The shift started with former Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, who depicted it as a “four plus one” framework because the last threat is more diffuse than the others. Some have reconstrued the framework slightly, as they display the idea as a “two plus three” list to focus on the competition with Russia and China as the highest concerns. It is a smart paradigm as it is short enough to focus attention and resource allocation, but also broad enough not to claim clairvoyance about future threats or to build national security priorities around too narrow a group of scenarios.

Taiwan Chipmaker Announces US Factory as Apple Pledges to Expand Taiwan Investment

By Nick Aspinwall

Semiconductor giant TSMC announced Friday it would invest $12 billion to establish a new chip factory in Arizona, days after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration was pushing TSMC and other chipmakers to develop plants in the United States as Pentagon officials worry about protecting global supply chains in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

TSMC said the five-nanometer chip production plant would create over 1,600 high-tech professional jobs. Construction will start in 2021, the company said in a Friday morning statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday TSMC had decided to go ahead with the project at a Tuesday board meeting in Taiwan. A previous report said Trump administration officials have been in talks with TSMC and American chipmaker Intel to build factories in the United States due to fears of overreliance on Asian countries for the development of critical technology.

A 2019 Pentagon report on the microelectronics supply chain raised particular concerns about Taiwan, calling it a “single point-of-failure for most of the United States’ largest, most important technology companies.” The report, authored by then-Air Force foreign policy advisor Rick Switzer, referred to Taiwan, China, and South Korea as “a triad of dependency for the entire U.S. digital economy.”

The Myth of Henry Kissinger

By Thomas Meaney
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In 1952, at the age of twenty-eight, Henry Kissinger did what enterprising graduate students do when they want to hedge their academic future: he started a magazine. He picked an imposing name—Confluence—and enlisted illustrious contributors: Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Lillian Smith, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr. The publisher James Laughlin, who was a backer of the magazine, described the young Kissinger as “a thoroughly sincere person (terribly earnest Germanic type) who is trying his hardest to do an idealistic job.” Like his other early production, the Harvard International Seminar, a summer program that convened participants from around the world—Kissinger gamely volunteered to spy on attendees for the F.B.I.—the magazine opened channels for him not only with policymakers in Washington but also with an older generation of German Jewish thinkers whose political experience had been formed in the early thirties, when the Weimar Republic was supplanted by the Nazi regime.

For Cold War liberals, who saw the stirrings of fascism in everything from McCarthyism to the rise of mass culture, Weimar was a cautionary tale, conferring a certain authority on those who had survived. Kissinger cultivated the Weimar intellectuals, but he was not impressed by their prospects for influence. Although he later invoked the memory of Nazism to justify all manner of power plays, at this stage he was building a reputation as an all-American maverick. He appalled the émigrés by running an article in Confluence by Ernst von Salomon, a far-rightist who had hired a getaway driver for the men who assassinated the Weimar Republic’s foreign minister. “I have now joined you as a cardinal villain in the liberal demonology,” Kissinger told a friend afterward, joking that the piece was being taken as “a symptom of my totalitarian and even Nazi sympathies.”

Deglobalization and Its Discontents


Increasing global interconnection – growing cross-border flows of people, goods, energy, emails, television and radio signals, data, drugs, terrorists, weapons, carbon dioxide, food, dollars, and, of course, viruses (both biological or software) – has been a defining feature of the modern world. The question, though, is whether globalization has peaked – and, if so, whether what follows is to be welcomed or resisted.

To be sure, people and goods have always moved around the world, be it over the high seas or the ancient Silk Road. What is different today is the scale, speed, and variety of these flows. Their consequences are already significant and are becoming more so. If great power rivalries, and how well or poorly they were managed, shaped much of the history of the past few centuries, the current era is more likely to be defined by global challenges and how well or poorly the world addresses them.

Globalization has been driven by modern technology, from jet planes and satellites to the Internet, as well as by policies that opened up markets to trade and investment. Both stability and instability have promoted it, the former by enabling business and tourism, and the latter by fueling flows of migrants and refugees. For the most part, governments viewed globalization as a net benefit and were generally content to let it run its course.

Major Epidemics of the Modern Era

For more than a century, countries have wrestled with how to improve international cooperation in the face of major outbreaks of infectious diseases. A pandemic of a new coronavirus that originated in China in 2019 underscores the urgency.

A new outbreak of cholera, a bacterial infection contracted through the consumption of contaminated food and water, begins in India at the turn of the century. It’s the latest wave of a disease that has caused pandemics intermittently since the early 1800s. The outbreak spreads to Russia, as well as to parts of the Middle East and North Africa, ultimately killing hundreds of thousands of people—with particularly high death tolls in India and Russia. Advancements in sanitation and public hygiene are credited with preventing the pandemic from taking hold in Europe and North America.

1918 – 1920

Ukraine and the Clash of Civilizations

by William S. Smith

The hawkish think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) recently warned that Vladimir Putin is taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to “advance his strategic objectives in Ukraine.” That ISW would focus on a nation that is largely irrelevant to American national interests and do so even in the midst of a terrible pandemic in the homeland is representative of the more general myopia of the American national security community. This myopia betrays a deeply flawed understanding of how the world order would be shaped at the end of the Cold War.

Consider just a few examples of how American leaders fumbled certain specific challenges at the end of the Cold War. When the first post–Cold War conflagration ignited in the former Yugoslavia, U.S. policymakers insisted that this artificial state be held together despite the intense ethnic and religious aspirations among the three major components of that fake country. The U.S. policy that emerged toward China was one of “constructive engagement,” naively assuming that the leader of a competing civilization with competing interests would want to Westernize. As Samuel Huntington pointed out, the Chinese believe that their “economic success is largely a product of Asian culture which is superior to that of the West, which is culturally and socially decadent.” In maybe the worst blunder of the post–Cold War period, the United States assumed that once Iraqis had been saved from a dictatorial regime they would rally to the flag of democracy, disregard centuries of ethnic and religious tensions and quickly embrace Western rights, values and outlooks.

LNG Imports And New Supply Challenge Russia’s Hold On European Gas Market – Analysis

By Yigal Chazan*

Russia’s dominance of Europe’s natural gas market, widely seen as threatening European energy security, is likely to be increasingly challenged as new suppliers establish a foothold in the region.

While Russia remains the European Union’s largest gas provider, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the US and other sources, such as Qatar, coupled with the emergence of Azerbaijan as a major gas supplier, is creating real competition, reducing member states’ dependence on Russia.

The US has long sought to encourage the EU to diversify its supplies of gas, worried that Russian energy supremacy allows it to wield political and economic influence over the bloc. Russia counters that these concerns betray a desire to increase its stake in the world’s second-biggest single gas market after the US. The Kremlin has also accused Washington of using energy as a political weapon. Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state-controlled oil producer Rosneft, claimed last June that the US wanted to curb cheap Russian gas exports to Europe to undermine Russia and slow the European economy.

US sanctions Nord Stream 2

Peering into the Crystal Ball

by Raphael S. Cohen
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Capt. Garrett Sinclair, 347th Operations Support Squadron chief of weapons and tactics, analyzes a computer during exercise FT 19-04, April 18, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The five-day exercise will give base personnel an opportunity to experience contingency operations in a contested and degraded combat environment. During the exercise, personnel will be evaluated on how well they defend and recover the base from ground-opposition forces, as well as mortar and missile attacks, while in mission oriented protective posture gear. (This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring out sensitive equipment.)

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taryn Butler

Where will the next war occur? Who will fight in it? Why will it occur? How will it be fought? This brief summarizes a series of reports that sought to answer these questions—looking out from now until 2030. The reports took the approach of examining these questions through the lenses of several trends—geopolitical, economic, environmental, legal, informational, and military—that will shape the contours of conflict.

Military history is littered with mistaken predictions about the future of warfare that have left forecasters militarily unprepared—sometimes disastrously so—for the conflicts ahead. The United States has suffered its own share of bad predictions.

Don't Make the Pandemic Worse with Poor Data Analysis

by Matthew D. Baird, David G. Groves, Osonde A. Osoba, Andrew M. Parker, Ricardo Sanchez, Claude Messan Setodji
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The COVID-19 pandemic thrust world leaders into a situation where they must make public health decisions based on incomplete information. At the same time, technological developments—which have increased real-time data and the ability to share it—are creating an overabundance of information, making it easier to draw spurious conclusions.

The six of us lead research centers at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation that develop statistical methods and models to use large-scale data and incorporate uncertainties into decision processes using such data. What we know from such work is that situations like this are rife with statistical pitfalls. Those analyzing COVID-19 data to make policy recommendations—and journalists who report on research findings to the public—must discern when analyses have fallen into these traps.

The need for immediate answers in the face of severe public health and economic distress may create a temptation to relax statistical standards. But urgency should not preclude expert analysis and honest assessments of uncertainty. Mistaken assumptions could lead to counterproductive actions.

Two recent news stories demonstrate the potential pitfalls of incomplete analysis or insufficient data.

Novel Observational Data