21 June 2020

As India and China clash, JFK’s ‘forgotten crisis’ is back

Bruce Riedel

The deadly clash this week between India and China in the Himalayas is the worst crisis in their border quarrel since 1967. It may escalate to the worst since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, which almost brought the United States to war with China. The COVID-19 pandemic makes the current situation worse, it’s hard to be cool-headed in the midst of a humanitarian disaster on both sides of the disputed border. Pakistan is also a very interested player, watching the game play out just as it did in 1962 and hoping its rival India will be humiliated.

At least 20 Indian soldiers died in the clashes in the Ladakh region adjoining Kashmir on June 15. The Chinese have not provided any casualty figures. The fighting was primitive: No firearms apparently were used, just sticks and stones. Two states armed with nuclear weapons had a fist fight, with fatal consequences and an unpredictable outcome.

Two states armed with nuclear weapons had a fist fight, with fatal consequences and an unpredictable outcome.

The remote region where the clash is occurring is strategically important to both countries because it is close to where India, China, and Pakistan meet. In 1962, India was badly defeated by the Chinese, losing the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh in a matter of days. Unlike in other border zones where the Chinese whipped the Indians, China did not withdraw from its gains. China took almost 15,000 square miles of what had been India in Aksai Chin, and has kept it ever since. It maintains claims to even more of Ladakh — hence the ongoing dispute.

For decades, both sides have built up their transportation infrastructure to get troops and supplies to the Himalayan front line. A newly upgraded road, built by the Indians, appears to be at the center of the latest tension.

The Galwan Valley India-China Skirmish Is a Gamechanger for New Delhi

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
Source Link

The killing of 20 Indian army men at the Galwan river confrontation on June 16 is a gamechanger in India’s national security and foreign policy strategy. For more than a month now, Indian and Chinese military forces have been engaged in a border stand-off in Ladakh on the western sector of the Sino-Indian border. For 45 years, India and China took pride in the fact that there had been no fatalities on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and that there had been peace and tranquility to a reasonable extent, despite occasional flare ups. That changed with this violent clash in which the dead included the commanding officer of the battalion. This changes the dynamics in India-China relations for the worse. As Ashley Tellis commented perceptively: “Sino-Indian relations can never go back to the old normal. They will reset with greater competitiveness and in ways that neither country had actually intended at the beginning of this crisis.”

There will be pressure on the Indian government to not go back to business as usual after this. New Delhi may also not be able to afford to continue its ambivalent and uncommitted foreign policy approach, generally characterized as “hedging.” India’s attempts at straddling multiple camps is likely to come under pressure. India has shown growing commitment to groupings such as the Quad, which has now been upgraded to ministerial level engagements. At the same time though, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also made efforts to engage again with the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), attending a virtual summit in early May. This was the first time he attended a NAM summit, a group he has largely ignored for years. Although India has emphasized its role in the Russia-India-China (RIC) and the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) groupings, there are likely to be questions raised about the utility of groups that are largely run according to Beijing’s wishes and which are unlikely to contribute much value to New Delhi. 

The Limits of India’s Urge to Boycott Chinese Brands

By Anubhav Roy

After China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) made its latest unwarranted trespass into terrain administered by India along the contentious Line of Actual Control (LAC) in May, Ladakhi educationist Sonam Wangchuk — who has his own relevance in India’s popular culture — released a two-part video appeal on YouTube, imploring his fellow Indian citizens to do their bit in repelling the Chinese by abstaining from buying Chinese products. While resonating the Modi government’s mid-lockdown clarion call for an “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India), Wangchuk’s plea was more emotive than pragmatic, evident in its hope that a sustained avoidance of Chinese manufactured goods could eventually “liberate” Tibetans and Uyghurs from Beijing’s thumb. Yet, India’s netizens answered diligently, with the buy-local spirit finding celebrity endorsements on Twitter; the promotions of flagship Chinese brands defaced on Facebook; and the familiar #BoycottChina and #BoycottMadeInChina hashtags returning to social media trends. As the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops spiraled late Monday into the worst bilateral confrontation seen in over four decades, an irate Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) claimed that it has red-flagged 3,000 products which, if weeded off the Indian market, could cost China roughly $13 billion.

Calls to boycott Chinese goods are not new and resurface spontaneously after every publicized downturn in bilateral relations between the two most populous states of the world. #BoycottChina trended vigorously in October 2016 when Beijing once again blocked New Delhi’s bid to get Masood Azhar, the founder of terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad, blacklisted by the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committee. When Beijing repeated the move in March 2019, India’s social media spheres revived the quasi-mercantilist uproar. The retaliatory campaign, despite often existing only in brief spurts, proved to be more than a gimmick pedaled by keyboard warriors when a 2019 survey across 21 Indian cities by the CAIT claimed that the sale of low-cost Chinese-made paraphernalia – from LED strings to firecrackers — for the annual autumn festival of Diwali had fallen by 60 percent.

Some of China's Newest and Most Powerful Tanks are On India's Border

by Peter Suciu

The situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC)—the de facto border between India and China along the Himalayas—is getting more tenuous. The two countries share what is one of the world’s longest unsettled borders and it is divided into western, middle and eastern sectors. The loose demarcation line was formed after the 1962 Sino-Indian War and looks no closer to be resolved any time soon.

The most serious of the ongoing standoffs between the two sides have taken place along points in the western sector, where clashes between troops on both sides of the LAC have increased with greater regularity and notable tenacity. This week at least twenty Indian soldiers were killed while some forty-three Chinese soldiers were also injured or killed in the most recent clash.

While leaders on both sides have sought to de-escalate the situation with words, their actions actually speak volumes.

In the past month India conducted jet fighter sorties over Ladakh near the demarcation line, and this week China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) responded by conducting high-altitude drills in the remote mountain region near Tibet. 

The Taliban and al-Qaeda: Enduring Partnership or Liability?

By Saurav Sarkar

Ever since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement in Doha on February 29, there has been much speculation around the question of whether the Taliban will break ties with al-Qaeda to honor the terms of the agreement. The agreement mentions that the Taliban will not allow any individual or group, including al-Qaeda, to threaten the United States and its allies from Afghanistan.

While the agreement states that there are unspecified “enforcement mechanisms” to validate the conditions of the deal, there seem to be no visible changes in the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban as of now. Al-Qaeda’s relationship with the Taliban has not always been steady and while the two groups have had their differences, their relationship has remained intact for more than two decades now. Recent developments in Afghanistan have shown that the Taliban is unlikely to abandon al-Qaeda and may even permit the latter’s activities as long as they benefit the Taliban operationally and are not traceable back to them.

Evolution of the al-Qaeda-Taliban nexus

Will the United States Really Go to Zero Troops in Afghanistan?

By Jonathan Schroden 

In the final U.S. presidential debate of 2016, candidate Donald Trump sharply criticized his opponent Hillary Clinton on the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. Specifically, he claimed that by withdrawing all U.S. forces from that country, “she gave us ISIS because her and Obama created this huge vacuum.” On Feb. 29 of this year, President Trump authorized Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad to sign the awkwardly titled “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America.” The agreement calls for the United States to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan within 14 months, but given Trump’s sharp criticism of a similar, previous course of action in Iraq, it is unclear whether a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will really happen.

The agreement itself suggests that it will not. To understand why requires examining the agreement in a bit more detail. The text of the document contains three main parts. In the first part, the United States agreed to a number of terms. Chief among these is to draw down its military forces to a total of 8,600 troops within 135 days (which has nearly happened) and, subject to the Taliban meeting its obligations, to withdraw all of its remaining forces within another nine and a half months. Washington also agreed to facilitate a prisoner exchange between the Afghan government and the Taliban (which has been happening, albeit slowly). In the second part, the Taliban agreed not to allow any of its members or other groups—explicitly including al-Qaeda—to use Afghanistan to threaten U.S. security or for recruiting, training and fundraising activities designed to do so. The third part of the agreement includes a requirement for the United States to seek endorsement from the United Nations for the deal, which Washington has already done. And it includes these two sentences:

Chinese Students Are Key to US National Security, Eric Schmidt Says


Eric Schmidt, the longtime Google CEO who now runs two Pentagon advisory boards, says current legislative efforts to bar Chinese students from studying in the United States could be “against our own self-interest.”

In May, the Trump administration declared that Chinese students studying in the United States who have ties to certain Chinese institutions may try to steal intellectual property. The proclamation does not name those institutions.

Chinese “authorities use some Chinese students, mostly post‑graduate students and post-doctorate researchers, to operate as non-traditional collectors of intellectual property,” it reads. 

Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has introduced more sweeping legislation that would essentially bar Chinese graduate students from studying STEM-related subjects in the United States. 

China’s Media Influence Has Gone Global. So Has the Pushback.

By Sarah Cook
Source Link

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and various Chinese government entities have long sought to influence public debate and media coverage about China around the world, a trend that has accelerated in recent years. Over the past month, a number of news reports and investigations, often by local journalists, have highlighted new evidence of how Chinese government-linked actors impact global information flows via propaganda, censorship, surveillance, and control over infrastructure. In response, various governments and technology firms have taken steps to undermine the negative effects CCP influence has on media and internet freedom. This article calls attention to some of these new developments.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand’s cash-strapped media companies are increasingly relying on Chinese state media like the official newswire, Xinhua News Agency, to provide coverage on the global response to the coronavirus. But China’s influence on Thai news precedes the pandemic, with at least a dozen outlets having inked partnerships with Xinhua and 2019 being named by the Thai government as the “ASEAN-China Year of Media Exchanges.”

Will American and Chinese Societies Support a New Type of Cold War?

By Matt Ferchen and Hanns W. Maull

As bilateral relations between America and China continue to deteriorate, pundits seem to be converging on a “new type of Cold War” as the most plausible scenario for future world politics. That assumes that both societies will allow their leaders to rouse them for that contest. But will they?

If the world is heading into a new Cold War, it is worth reflecting on how it got into, and out of, the old Cold War. In the last analysis, such global contests are decided by societies: it is the people who have to sustain the effort and carry the burden of prolonged great power competition. So it is worth asking how the Chinese and American people will respond to the “call to arms” (so far mostly metaphorically) by their leaders for that new type of Cold War?

Building long-lasting and broad-based social support for the burdens associated with a new Cold War won’t be easy. In the first half of the 20th century, in the wake of World War I and after the Great Depression, American society and politics largely failed to support a greater American role and responsibility in global affairs. It took the Battle of Britain and Pearl Harbor to bring America into World War II and to forge domestic support for a new, post-war international order in which the United States took center stage. Even during the Cold War, mobilizing American society to support and sustain a global contest against the Soviet Union at times was difficult and risky; the means deployed by politicians — such as stirring anti-communist paranoia — sometimes took American democracy to the brink.

China Just Botched a Monumental Opportunity With the Philippines

By Derek Grossman

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement on February 11 that Manila planned to terminate the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in six months, per the VFA terms, was hailed by Beijing as evidence the U.S. was losing great power competition with China in the Indo-Pacific. A Chinese state-run media headline exclaimed “Washington’s divisive intents get cold shoulder,” and another called Duterte’s decision a “severe blow” to the U.S.-Philippines alliance. One of China’s military outlets further argued that Duterte’s announcement underscored a “deep bilateral feud” that, according to Beijing’s hardline tabloid Global Times, would “upset U.S. meddling in the South China Sea.”

The problem for Beijing, however, was what happened on June 2: Duterte and his government decided to postpone the VFA termination, breathing new life into the decades-long agreement that enables the U.S., among other things, freedom of movement into and within the Philippines. Washington believes the VFA is a critical enabler of the Indo-Pacific Strategy because of the Philippines’ close geographic proximity to the South China Sea.

China’s Surveillance Technology Is Keeping Tabs on Populations Around the World

By Hugh Harsono

The future of modern warfare increasingly emphasizes technology, with a fast-emerging field being the artificial intelligence (AI) space. AI is becoming increasingly critical when applied to military applications; a notion China is heavily invested in. Strategic-level announcements by the Chinese government have promised as much, with China pursuing a “strategy for development that concentrates on advancing innovation, the contestation of leadership in next-generation information technologies – particularly artificial intelligence.”

These artificial intelligence tools run the gamut in terms of application, from facial recognition technology to autonomous vehicles and weaponry. However, China’s focus is on exporting this home-grown technology, enabling placement in – and potential access to — foreign security apparatuses. This influence is especially concerning given the growth of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as China is using the BRI to help boost exports of its home-grown AI tools to other countries, providing a window of opportunity for Beijing to influence other nations.

On Facial Recognition, the U.S. Isn’t China—Yet

By Sam duPont 

As protests grow, the police leverage their technological advantage. Widespread surveillance cameras capture the crowds, and facial recognition software picks out individuals, cross-referencing databases to generate dossiers on protestors. Demonstrators counter by cutting down lamp posts that might conceal cameras. Across the country, 3,000 miles away, biometric systems monitor everyday people as they go about their lives. These tools enable police to control a population and detain suspects before they even commit a crime.

We are, of course, in China, where law enforcement authorities in Hong Kong have deployed high-tech surveillance systems to quash protests, and the Chinese government uses facial recognition and other technologies in Xinjiang to control and repress the Uighur minority population. The United States is not China when it comes to the surveillance of its people using biometric technologies like facial recognition—but that is not the result of any law or policy on the books today.

The Autumn of the Patriarch

By Gabriel García Márquez

Over the weekend the vultures got into the Presidential Palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows, and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur. Only then did we dare go in without attacking the crumbling walls of reinforced stone, as the more resolute had wished, and without using oxbows to knock the main door off its hinges, as others had proposed, because all that was needed was for someone to give a push and the great armored doors that had resisted the lombards of William Dampier during the building’s heroic days gave way. It was like entering the atmosphere of another age, because the air was thinner in the rubble pits of the vast lair of power, and the silence was more ancient, and things were hard to see in the decrepit light. 

All across the first courtyard, where the paving stones had given way to the underground thrust of weeds, we saw the disorder of the quarters of the guard who had fled, the weapons abandoned in their racks, the big, long rough-planked tables with plates containing the leftovers of the Sunday lunch that had been interrupted by panic, in the shadows we saw the annex where Government House had been, colored fungi and pale irises among the unpled briefs whose normal course had been slower than the pace of the driest of lives, in the center of the courtyard we saw the baptismal font where more than five generations had been christened with martial sacraments, in the rear we saw the ancient viceregal stable, which had been transformed into a coach house, and among the camellias and butterflies we saw the berlin from stirring days, the wagon from the time of the plague, the coach from the year of the comet, the hearse from Progress in Order, the sleepwalking limousine of the first century of peace, all in good shape under the dusty cobwebs and all painted with the colors of the flag. 

Punishment by Pandemic

By Rachel Aviv

DeMarco Raynor, who is incarcerated at Cummins Unit, a penitentiary in southeast Arkansas, had been approved for its most prestigious job: working at the governor’s mansion. Prison labor at the mansion is a “longstanding tradition, which kept down costs,” Hillary Clinton wrote, in a memoir. (She noted that “onetime murderers” proved to be the best employees.) Raynor saw the position, which was unpaid, as a chance to meet people with the power to grant him clemency. But, shortly before he was to begin, an officer said that he had violated prison rules by wearing slippers that he had made himself. The job was revoked. Raynor believed that the officer had intentionally thwarted his opportunity. “I still maintain my manhood, and he felt like that was too much,” Raynor said. Another officer once told him, “Man, you walk around just like you’re free.”

Raynor is forty-one, and is serving a life sentence for shooting a man during a drunken confrontation, when he was twenty. Raynor, who is black, was convicted by eleven white jurors and one black woman. “I will die remembering her name,” he told me. “She looked at me the whole trial like I was her son, and then, when the verdict came back, she couldn’t look at me.” Raynor monitors his use of language, so that he doesn’t assimilate to institutional life. He refuses to call food “money”; he will not invite people to his “house” when he means his cell. He bristles when prisoners, working unpaid jobs, describe an officer as their “boss.”

New Space Strategy Is Heavy on ‘Winning,’ Light on Details


The U.S. military must be capable of “winning wars that extend into space,” according to a summary of the Pentagon’s new Space Strategy. That’s a rhetorical escalation from the 2011 version, which merely called space a “contested” domain. But to judge from a summary released Wednesday, the new strategy is heavy on goals and light on details. 

“I think it’s in some way a step backward from the 2011 strategy,” said Brian Weeden, technical advisor for the Secure World Foundation.

Weeden described the new strategy as big on goals, vague on “the how,” and mute on “the means.” 

He noted that some of the 2011 strategy’s big to-do items are well underway, such as working with commercial satellite providers and private space companies to “improve the resilience of space architectures upon which we rely.” DARPA has launched research programs, including Blackjack, to show that it might be possible to use commercial satellites for some military applications. The Army has signed a deal to try out SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. 

In North Korea, Trump Faces Another Potential Disaster

Frida Ghitis

Amid a storm of domestic crises, and with less than five months until Election Day, President Donald Trump suddenly faces the prospect of having his signature foreign policy initiative, once quietly stalled, unravel spectacularly. Trump took personal charge of the daunting North Korea file early on, all but proclaiming victory after a groundbreaking, made-for-TV meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in Singapore two years ago, immediately after which he announced on Twitter: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Back then, that sounded preposterously premature. Today, it brings faint echoes of Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 declaration of “peace for our time” after returning from Munich in 1938—another legendary misreading of negotiations with a tyrant

Trump Signs Uyghur Human Rights Act Into Law

By Eleanor Albert

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020. The bill authorizes the imposition of U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the detention and persecution of Uyghurs, a Turkic, Muslim ethnic group predominantly residing in the Xinjiang autonomous region in western China.

The Chinese government has long had concerns about the Uyghurs’ religious and ethnic ties to neighboring states, as well as spates of violence against government workers and civilians over the years. However, the latest Beijing-directed crackdown, which dates back to April 2017 according to leaked official documents, appears to be a sweeping effort to eradicate even the possibility of separatist sentiment and activity by targeting Uyghur cultural identity itself. Many reports describe arbitrary detentions, forced labor in nearby factories, forced loyalty pledges to the Chinese Communist Party and renunciation of Islam, as well as accounts of prison-like conditions with detainees subject to torture and other abuses. Estimates of detained Uyghurs range from 1 to 2 million in dozens of internment camps.

In the United States, these reports led to increasingly loud calls to take punitive action. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 passed both houses of the U.S. legislature nearly unanimously in May; previous versions had been introduced last year. Under the new legislation, the U.S. government can freeze the assets of individuals and entities found responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, as well as ban the identified individuals from entry to the United States. Moreover, the bill requires the submission of periodic reports to Congress on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, efforts to protect U.S. citizens and residents from harassment and intimidation by the Chinese government in the United States, China’s technology capabilities to facilitate internment and mass surveillance in Xinjiang, as well as classified reports on the scope and scale of the Chinese government’s detention and forced labor policies against Muslim minority groups.

South Korean Defense Minister Emphasizes Increased Spending on Indigenous Defense Manufacturers

By Ankit Panda

South Korea’s defense minister, Jeong Kyeong-doo, said on Monday that he supported plans to continue heavy defense spending focused on indigenous South Korean firms. According to Jeong, increased spending would help these firms weather the difficult economic environment brought about globally by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are putting efforts to spend more on purchasing arms from local companies, instead of buying from abroad, when drawing the budget plan for next year,” Jeong said, speaking to executives from South Korea’s top defense firms, according to the Yonhap News Agency. “We are working on how to better support [the industry], but there have been limits in drawing visible achievements,” Jeong added, according to Yonhap. “Though it is not easy, I hope we can overcome this difficult situation together.”

Jeong’s comments came as tensions between the two Koreas flared following the release of a statement by Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister and a top North Korean official, threatening direct military action in retaliation for what Pyongyang said was Seoul’s inability to stifle civil groups from launching anti-North Korean regime leaflets across the inter-Korean border.

Autoimmune Disease: How to Turn White Blood Cells From Attacking the Body to Protecting It

by Peter Cockerill David C. Wraith

For most of us, the immune system works to protect us from bacteria, viruses, and other harmful pathogens. But for people with autoimmune conditions, the body’s white blood cells instead perceive other cells and tissues in the body to be a threat and attacks them. While some immune disorders, like allergies, can sometimes be treated, autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) remain incurable.

Our research has shown that you can stop the immune system attacking the nerves – which is what happens in MS. We did this by giving the immune system ever-increasing doses of the same molecule that the immune system was attacking.

Now we’ve taken this research one step further to show how this process works inside the white blood cells that make up the immune system. Our team revealed the complex mechanisms that allow us to switch T cells (a type of white blood cell) from attacking the cells of autoimmune disease patients to protecting them. We learnt how to make reactive T cells tolerant.

Thanks To Germany, Israel Is A True Nuclear Weapons State

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need To Remember: Farley is probably correct in arguing that the Israel’s nuclear-tipped SLCMs are less practical than Tel Aviv’s other nuclear-delivery platforms. For that matter, Israel doesn’t currently face any adversaries with nuclear capabilities to deter against. However, like the idea of second-strike capability in general, the threat of sea-launched nukes may be more intended political weapon than one strictly intended for its military effectiveness.

Israel has never officially admitted to possessing nuclear weapons.

Unofficially, Tel Aviv wants everyone to know it has them, and doesn’t hesitate to make thinly-veiled references to its willingness to use them if confronted by an existential threat. Estimates on the size of Tel Aviv’s nuclear stockpile range from 80 to 300 nuclear weapons, the latter number exceeding China’s arsenal.

Originally, Israel’s nuclear forces relied on air-dropped nuclear bombs and Jericho ballistic missiles. For example, when Egyptian and Syrian armies attacked Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a squadron of eight Israeli F-4 Phantom jets loaded with nuclear bombs was placed on alert by Prime Minister Golda Meir, ready to unleash nuclear bombs on Cairo and Damascus should the Arab armies break through.

Though Israel is the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, Tel Aviv is preoccupied by the fear that an adversary might one day attempt a first strike to destroy its nuclear missiles and strike planes on the ground before they can retaliate. Currently, the only hostile states likely to acquire such a capability are Iran or Syria.

Study: Face Masks Critical in Preventing Spread of Coronavirus

by Ethen Kim Lieser

A new study conducted by a team of researchers in Texas and California has found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chance of being infected by the COVID-19 virus.

The team utilized data to compare coronavirus infection rate trends in Italy and New York—both before and after face masks were made mandatory.

According to the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both locations started to witness lower infection rates after the face mask measures were enforced.

Researchers claimed that wearing face masks prevented more than 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9, and more than 66,000 infections in New York City between April 17 and May 9.

When Will Europe Finally Take Defense Seriously?

France and Germany are calling for closer defense cooperation in the EU a policy paper seen by Bloomberg News and supported by Italy, Spain and other nations.

The ambition isn’t new. Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel called for a “true European army” in 2018.

But the timing is conspicuous, coming days after President Donald Trump said he would pull 9,500 American troops out of Germany, bringing the total to a post-Cold War low of 25,000.

Will this finally convince Europeans to get serious about their own defense?
Low spending

Trump insists Germany is “delinquent” in its payments to NATO, which is a farce. Germany never asked for American troops on its soil. America decided to keeps its soldiers in Germany after World War II in order to discourage German remilitarization as well as Soviet expansion to the west.

A transformative moment for philanthropy

By Tracy Nowski, Maisie O’Flanagan, and Lynn Taliento

The philanthropic response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the sector at its best. From the launch of community-based rapid-response funds to the development of diagnostics and vaccines, philanthropy is showing up both to help flatten the curve in the short term and to address the inequities the crisis will exacerbate over the long term.

What’s striking is not only the scale of capital being committed by major philanthropists (at least $10.3 billion globally in May 2020, according to Candid, which is tracking major grants) but also how it is being given: at record speed, with fewer conditions, and in greater collaboration with others. According to the Council on Foundations, almost 750 foundations have signed a public pledge to streamline grant-making processes, and individual donors are partnering with their peers to make sizable grants with less paperwork.

Confronted with the global pandemic, individual and institutional philanthropy has been responsive, engaged, and nimble. The challenge—and opportunity—for the sector will be to make those features stick. The gravitational pull toward old ways of working will be strong, especially as philanthropies grapple with the impact of an economic downturn on their own endowments. But many of the practices that have emerged during this pandemic, including the five that we highlight in this article, should be expanded and formalized as the world heads into the long process of recovery (exhibit).


Zac Rogers 

Information warfare is, at base, a contest of narratives. Not merely collections of competing facts or data points arrayed against one another, narratives are stories that imbue facts and other forms of information with meaning. Crucially, they do not float freely—certain conditions must exist in the information environment in order for narratives to be sustained and transmitted over space and time. The contemporary information environment is host to conditions increasingly hostile to this process. Anecdotally, and as anyone awake for the first half of 2020 can attest, narratives transiting the information environment are now so numerous, and blink into and out of existence so rapidly, that they no longer exist in the impactful way they previously did. The net effect of the fragmentation and disutility of the information environment is not merely one of many more contested narratives. It is of no narratives.

Digital media introduced a new scale, pace, and pattern to human communication, and, in this way, altered how the world is perceived. With regards to scale, we encounter an unprecedented amount of information about the world at large through digital media. With regards to pace, we encounter this information with previously unknown and unrelenting immediacy. And, with regards to pattern, we encounter it both in novel social contexts and in a form that bears greater resemblance to a database than a story.

Who needs ‘Russian hackers’? Report reveals CIA incompetence to blame for Vault 7 breach

Nebojsa Malic

An internal CIA report about the Vault 7 fiasco paints a damning picture of the main US spy agency. WikiLeaks released the CIA’s hacking tools, likely leaked by an insider, while CIA chiefs were too busy cooking up Russiagate.

Vault 7 was the name given to cyber attack tools developed by the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), and published by WikiLeaks in March 2017. It was the largest data breach in Langley’s history, with long-lasting consequences. For example, Chinese cybersecurity companies recently used Vault 7 evidence to show that the US has been hacking China for over a decade.

According to a just-released internal CIA report, “CCI had prioritized building cyber weapons at the expense of securing their own systems. Day-to-day security practices had become woefully lax.”