22 February 2021

India and the Biden administration: Consolidating and rebalancing ties

Tanvi Madan

The evolution of the relationship between India and the United States over the next few years will take place as both countries face a trifecta of crises. Washington will be grappling with the coronavirus and vaccine distribution, the pandemic’s economic fallout, and the consequences of political divisiveness. Delhi will also be dealing with the health crisis and its economic consequences while facing a national security crisis with an assertive China.

In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek to consolidate and even expand ties with the United States, a partner he has called “indispensable.” Delhi will hope that Washington continues to be helpful to its interests, and—in part to ensure that—will try to be responsive to the Biden administration’s priorities. Given that, India will likely focus in the near term on cooperating with the United States to ensure that a rules-based order and multipolarity prevails in the Indo-Pacific region, on global health security, and on climate change.

Over the last few years, intensified U.S. and Indian concerns about China paved the way for deeper and more institutionalized defense and security ties, new or revived mechanisms to engage each other and with partners (including the Quadrilateral dialogue), and consultation, coordination, or cooperation in third countries and regional or global institutions, as well as incentives for the two countries to manage differences on a range of issues. Significantly for India, this also resulted in diplomatic, military, and intelligence support in its ongoing border crisis with China.

Pakistan meets conditions to get next $500 million from IMF

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan on Tuesday reached a staff-level agreement that Pakistan had completed reforms required for the release of around $500 million in IMF funds that had been suspended for about a year.

“The package strikes an appropriate balance between supporting the economy, ensuring debt sustainability and advancing structural reform,” the Fund said in a statement issued by both sides.

“Pending approval of the Executive Board, the reviews’ completion would release around US$500 million.”

Financial analysts say the hold-up was due to questions around fiscal and revenue reforms.

“This is a good development for Pakistan,” Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said in a tweet.

How a Rising China Has Remade Global Politics

As much as any other single development, China’s rise over the past two decades has remade the landscape of global politics. Beginning with its entry into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, China rapidly transformed its economy from a low-cost “factory to the world” to a global leader in advanced technologies. Along the way, it has transformed global supply chains, but also international diplomacy, leveraging its success to become the primary trading and development partner for emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

But Beijing’s emergence as a global power has also created tensions. Early expectations that China’s integration into the global economy would lead to liberalization at home and moderation abroad have proven overly optimistic, especially since President Xi Jinping rose to power in 2012. Instead, Xi has overseen a domestic crackdown on dissent, in order to shore up and expand the Chinese Communist Party’s control over every aspect of Chinese society. Needed economic reforms have been put on the backburner, while unfair trade practices, such as forced technology transfers and other restrictions for foreign corporations operating in China, have resulted in a trade war with the U.S. and increasing criticism from Europe.

Meanwhile, China’s “quiet rise” has given way to more vocal expressions of great power aspirations and a more assertive international posture, particularly with regard to China’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Combined with Beijing’s military modernization program, that has put Asia, as well as the United States, on notice that China’s economic power will have geopolitical implications. Now the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up opportunities for China to expand its influence, even as it has called into question both China’s credibility as a responsible stakeholder and the future of the supply chains that have fueled its economic success story.

Semiconductors as Natural Resources – Exploring the National Security Dimensions of U.S.-China Technology Competition

By Akinori Kahata

This blog post is the third a series on U.S.-China technology competition. Click here to read the previous posts in this series, Managing U.S.-China Technology Competition and Decoupling, and Assessing the Impact of U.S.-China Technology Competition and Decoupling: Focusing on 5G.

In recent years, the U.S. government has taken a variety of steps to both control China’s access to semiconductor technology as well as to improve the United States’ own ability to lead in chip design and production. Key among these were the export controls enacted by the Trump administration against companies including Huawei and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation Incorporated (SMIC), and the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which included funding for semiconductor manufacturing and research.

Technological competition around semiconductors is not only happening between the U.S. and China. In December 2020, a group of European Union countries announced “A European Initiative on Processors and Semiconductor Technologies” with the aim of increasing Europe’s semiconductor production capability throughout the value chain. Recent reports indicate that the European Commission has entered into discussions with TSMC and Samsung about investing in advanced manufacturing facilities on the continent to reduce its dependence on China and the United States.

China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy: What to Expect in the Next Five Years


As a new administration takes power in Washington, Beijing is preparing its next Five-Year Plan, which will set overall guidance for policies and national development goals through 2025. The final version is expected in March, but the world received a teaser about policy priorities for the next five years and beyond when the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee released its Recommendations on the Plan last October. One section of the Recommendations is particularly relevant for China’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy, the future trajectory of which is a key issue for the incoming Biden administration.

As one of the hallmark policy initiatives of the Xi Jinping administration, MCF is envisioned as a state governance tool to balance the goals of security and development, directly supporting China’s ability to prevail in a long-term strategic competition. In the near term, Beijing is attempting to have both “guns and butter,” creating synergy between central and local government regulatory agencies, military end-users, and defense, civilian, and commercial R&D ecosystems in critical domains. The longer-term goal is to unify the government’s various security and development strategies to create a strategic posture—a “unified system of strategies and strategic capability”—that can bring all of China’s capabilities to bear in competitions with other nations. By design, MCF is not simply another yet national plan, but rather a strategy whose components are to be woven into China’s other national strategic priorities, advancing the PRC’s overarching security and development goals.

How to Understand Iranian Information Operations

By Sonja Swanbeck 

On Oct. 20 and 21, 2020, just two weeks before Election Day, Iranian actors sent out spoofed emails to thousands of American voters in Florida, Alaska and Arizona. The emails were designed to appear as though they were sent by the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, and threatened “we will come after you” if recipients did not vote for Donald Trump. Some of the emails were also accompanied by a link to a video depicting Trump calling vote-by-mail “a terrible thing” and followed by what was made to look like a demonstration of how to fraudulently produce a mail-in ballot. Government officials and cybersecurity experts debunked the video’s demonstration, but the video continued to circulate on social media. Within 48 hours, then-Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe attributed this disinformation campaign to Iran, alleging that Iran’s purpose was to undermine Trump’s presidential campaign.

In the past few years, Iran has become increasingly sophisticated and active in online communities targeting the American public. And its brazen tactics leading up to the election could mark a shift in the country’s influence strategy toward the United States. According to the public record, this is the first time that Iranian actors have engaged in an election interference campaign targeting the United States utilizing stolen voter information in influence operations.

But to the extent that Iran targets U.S. audiences in sustained disinformation campaigns, it still typically aims to broadly promote Iranian interests—such as denigrating sanctions against the country and bolstering their moral standing compared to the U.S.—rather than attempting to induce a specific result in American domestic affairs. More importantly, Iran is almost certainly expending far more of its resources on its geopolitical sphere of influence in the Middle East and North Africa.

As Right-Wing Extremism Rises, Jihadism Still Persists

Six separate terrorist attacks took place in Europe between late September and late November of last year—three in France, and one each in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. All six attacks were inspired by Salafi-jihadist ideology, which is, and will remain, a persistent terrorism threat to Europe and elsewhere in the West for the foreseeable future.

Among the incidents in France was a stabbing attack outside the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which has published caricatures of religious figures, including the prophet Muhammad, and where al-Qaida-affiliated gunmen killed 12 staff members in 2015. Weeks later, a middle school teacher named Samuel Paty was beheaded after he showed his students caricatures of Muhammad as part of a classroom presentation on freedom of speech. And in early November, three people were fatally stabbed at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice. None of the perpetrators of these attacks were known to law enforcement or had connections to foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaida or the Islamic Stat

To save Iraq from economic collapse and fight ISIS, contain Iran’s proxies

Ranj Alaaldin

The day after President Biden was inaugurated, Baghdad was hit by two suicide bombers who, in macabre fashion, killed at least 32 people and wounded at least 100. The attack was a stark reminder that the Iraq theater is still a critical one for combatting ISIS and preventing it from mounting a resurgence. With this in mind, U.S.-Iraq ties are worth salvaging after their deterioration over the past four years. ISIS is strongly positioned to carry out more routine mass-casualty attacks. While the January bombing was its first major terrorist attack in Baghdad in over three years, ISIS carries out near-daily attacks in the rest of the country and could develop a momentum similar to that which preceded its declaration of a caliphate in 2014.

There are two underlying challenges that makes ISIS capable of carnage and launching a resurgence: Iraq’s desperate need for an economic revival and the threat from Shiite militia groups. Addressing both requires that Washington adopt a set of guiding principles for its engagement with Iraq — an approach premised on the fact that Iraq’s economic crisis and the threat from Iran-aligned Shiite militia groups are two sides of the same coin.

Brief: Blackouts Highlight Mexico’s Energy Dilemma

Background: The Mexican economy’s high dependency on the U.S. economy is a double-edged sword. On one hand, having close ties to the biggest economy in the world – made all the more accessible because of their proximity and trade agreements – is an advantage for many industries. On the other hand, Mexico’s reliance on an external market means that many of the factors that determine the health of its economy are out of Mexico’s control. It thus has a strategic interest in reducing this dependency but faces a multitude of factors that limit its ability to do so.

What Happened: Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission said Monday that a winter storm in Texas reduced natural gas exports from the U.S. by around 25 percent, causing blackouts in parts of northern Mexico. The shortage affected Sinaloa, Sonora, Durango, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon states and disrupted production at electricity generation stations. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador used the occasion to point out Mexico’s high dependence on the U.S. for natural gas. Mexico’s energy secretary estimated last month that 70 percent of the country’s gas supplies came from the U.S., while the remaining 30 percent was produced domestically.

The Rise and Fall and Rise (and Fall) of the U.S. Financial Empire


If 2020 confirmed one thing, it was the centrality of the dollar to the global economy. U.S. hegemony may already have passed us in a political and strategic sense, but U.S. financial influence is proving more enduring. This is reassuring in the sense that the U.S. Federal Reserve has once again acted as a responsive and generous steward of the dollar-based financial system. But it is also a cause of puzzlement and frustration.

While China and Russia experiment with alternatives to the dollar-based payment system, in Europe the buzzword of the day is “strategic autonomy.” Given the increasing aggression of Washington’s financial sanctions, compounded by the capriciousness of the presidency of Donald Trump, this is hardly surprising. It is an obvious reaction to the weaponization of interdependence.

It is far from obvious to critics that dollar hegemony is an unalloyed blessing. Inequality, deindustrialization, and the loss of well-paid and secure blue-collar jobs can all be blamed on the dollar’s strength. In that sense, the dollar’s standing and Trumpian populism are not so much contradictions as functionally interconnected. One helped cause the other.

Should Biden Ditch All of Trump’s Policies?

Emma Ashford, Matthew Kroenig

Matthew Kroenig: Hi, Emma! One question on everyone’s mind this week is: Will President Joe Biden keep major elements of Donald Trump’s foreign policy or throw them out? Some progressives worry that the administration’s policies are too similar on China and too different in places like Afghanistan. What is your take?

Emma Ashford: I know one place where Biden should definitely keep Trump’s policies, and that’s in Afghanistan. Most progressives I know are quite keen on that, actually. It’s the Washington establishment that wants Biden to throw out Trump’s Afghanistan policy, as a slew of recent op-eds—and perhaps more importantly, the findings of the congressionally mandated study group on Afghanistan—all suggest.

MK: I’m with the establishment on this one. Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban was conditions-based, and the Taliban are not meeting their promised condition to reduce violence—instead they are ramping it up.

As Coronavirus Variants Spread, the US Struggles to Keep Up

Megan Molteni

The nation is a sequencing superpower. But without a federal strategy or enough funding, scientists can’t coordinate to track an evolving threat fast enough.

Across the US, the coronavirus is in retreat. The pandemic is still raging, mind you, with more than 70,000 new cases still reported each day. But since the post-holiday peak in mid-January, the seven-day average of new cases has fallen by nearly 64 percent. Hospitalizations have plunged too. And with vaccinations accelerating, there is a glimmer of hope that this downward trend might be the start of Covid’s long slide toward containment, at least in the US and other wealthy countries that are hogging the shots.

America 2021: Making change happen, against the odds

By J. R. Maxwell and Kirk Rieckhoff

Of all the leaders seeking change for our country, none have more potential impact than the incoming cadre of cabinet leaders and agency directors. Congratulations on your recent appointments. As you are well aware, the United States is in an unprecedented position. Between growing concerns on climate, a renewed focus on equity of opportunities, an unrelenting pandemic, and a deeply shocked economy, the United States is facing domestic headwinds and complexities on a scale that has not been experienced in almost a century. To prevail in this endeavor, the administration will need to move swiftly and decisively—bringing the whole of government to bear across all four fronts.

As agency and department leads, you will be asked to support these priorities. Your vision and leadership will likely produce a set of signature initiatives that you want to address. All of this must be considered in light of the mission of the organization you lead and the challenges the organization is already tackling. And it’s likely you’ll be faced with the need to revitalize a federal workforce with plummeting morale and lack of trust in government leadership.1 As a new leader, you’ll have lots of eyes on you. People within and without your group will naturally want to understand what kind of a leader you are, how serious you are about your vision, and how serious you are about the changes you’re looking to make. And just in case that’s not hard enough, this is all taking place in the context of the federal government—with all the rules, fragmentation of authority, and scrutiny that comes with public service.

A Pentagon strategy for elevating the space mission

Michael Sinclair and Mir Sadat

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faces a host of challenges that are rapidly outpacing fiscal calendars, election cycles and even the best laid military plans based on last century’s industrial age.

Nowhere is that more true than in space, which is vital to U.S. national security, commerce and the comfort of our modern life.

But while the military now treats space as a warfighting domain, it is still not poised to seize and hold the high ground for years to come.

The new secretary of defense has five urgent tasks to disrupt the status quo thinking in the Pentagon:

First, the Pentagon chief must challenge U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Space Force to provide a clear, bipartisan path forward toward mission execution that in the short, medium and eventually long-term emphasizes space as critical infrastructure that can be funded and grown beyond fiscal years and over successive presidential administrations.

A strategic roadmap for reentry 2021 and beyond

William Burke-White

As the Biden administration takes office, it confronts a radically transformed global landscape in which it must advance a range of U.S. priorities through multilateral policy tools, including international institutions, international law, and multilateral diplomacy. Neglect of the international order and exits from international commitments under the Trump presidency have positioned the United States as a relative outsider in the multilateral policy space, decreasing its leverage and influence. Simultaneously, a rising China has become far more effective and assertive in shaping international norms and setting the agendas of international institutions. Even with unified Democratic control of the U.S. government, the new administration’s policy options are severely constrained by deep political divisions over America’s role in the world and the value of the international order. This new landscape demands fresh approaches to how the United States works with its partners, confronts its rivals, and advances its interests multilaterally.

The six “Philadelphia Principles” proposed in this report can guide the United States toward more effective multilateralism and involve shifts to its global strategic approach, changes to how the United States builds and stewards partnerships and alliances, and a renewed focus on the domestic political and bureaucratic context of multilateral engagement. Two principles operate at the global strategic level.

Biden Wants to Restore NATO. Macron Is Looking to Move On.


President Joe Biden came to office promising to renew the spirit of the Western alliances born after World War II. It’s his deliberate rejection of the Trump-and-Brexit era of hyper-nationalism and the America First bullying that has beleaguered Europe for five years.

“I’m sending a clear message to the world: America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back,” Biden said in a Friday speech streamed from the White House to Western leaders listening in at this year’s virtually-held Munich Security Conference. “And we are not looking backward, we are looking forward — together.”

But are they?

France’s President Emmanuel Macron is looking forward — to an entirely new transatlantic “security architecture” for the 21st century. Macron’s vision is an all-European defensive collective that is armed up and can act independently and ahead of “brain dead” NATO. Biden knows this, but made no mention of it in his remarks, offering instead only sweeping declarations that Europe and the United States must again “trust in one another.” And so, just minutes after Biden’s speech, the first by a sitting U.S. president to the annual event, Macron pumped the brakes.

National Defense University Press

Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ), 100 (1st Quarter, January 2021)

The Evolution of Special Operations as a Model for Information Forces

Harnessing the Power of Information: A Better Approach for Countering Chinese Coercion

Beyond Bean Bags and Rubber Bullets: Intermediate Force Capabilities Across the Competition Continuum

The “Next Training Revolution”: Readying the Joint Force for Great Power Competition and Conflict

Beneath the Crosshairs: Remotely Piloted Airstrikes as a Foreign Policy Tool

It’s Not Just About Cyber Anymore: Multidisciplinary Cyber Education and Training Under the New Information Warfare Paradigm

Logistics Under Fire: Changes for Meeting Dynamically Employed Forces

Independent and Credible: Advising Afghan Security Forces During the 2019 Presidential Election

The Myths of Lyme Disease: Separating Fact from Fiction for Military Personnel

Fight Tonight: Reenergizing the Pentagon for Great Power Competition

Modernizing the Operational Design of the Medical Readiness Training Exercise

A New Look at Operational Art: How We View War Dictates How We Fight It

Multidomain Ready: How Integrated Air and Missile Defense Is Leading the Way

Behind Enemy Plans: A Process-Tracing Analysis of Germany’s Operational Approach to a Western Invasion

Military Health System Preparedness in Humanitarian Action

Social Media and Online Speech: How Should Countries Regulate Tech Giants?

By Anshu Siripurapu

The role of social media and online speech in civil society has come under heightened scrutiny. The deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 is just one example of violence which national security experts say was fomented in large part on social media platforms. Elsewhere in the world, social media has contributed to religious and ethnic violence, including against Muslims in India and Rohingya in Myanmar. Harmful misinformation, including about the COVID-19 pandemic, has also spread with ease and speed.

Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become the de facto public squares in many countries, and governments are adopting varying approaches to regulating them.
How do the major platforms regulate content?

The most popular platforms, most of which are run by U.S. companies, have similar content moderation policies. They bar posts that glorify or encourage violence; posts that are sexually explicit; and posts that contain hate speech, which they define as attacking a person for their race, gender, or sexual orientation, among other characteristics. The major platforms have also taken steps to limit disinformation, including by fact-checking posts, labeling the accounts of state-run media, and banning political ads.

Global Data Governance

Foreign Policy Analytics’ (FPA’s) Global Data Governance Power Map details emerging trends in private companies’ and governments’ data collection practices. These trends include the proliferation of data privacy and data localization laws, governments’ expanding data collection practices, changes in global encryption laws, the rising use of AI for data collection, and the proliferation of COVID-19 tracking apps. Throughout the Power Map series, laws and policies related to these trends are catalogued and graphically broken down for readers.

As a reference and navigable tool for Insiders, all of the practices and regulations chronicled in the Power Map series have been consolidated in FPA’s Global Data Governance Database below. This database provides a comprehensive regional and country-level breakdown of global data governance practices in 111 countries worldwide. For easy navigation, this searchable database can be sorted by country or region. For a deeper dive into each global data governance practice chronicled below, see the corresponding Power Map section.

Countries Are Ramping Up Vaccinations. What About Refugees?

By Christina Lu

As countries around the world scramble to vaccinate their populations against the coronavirus and its deadlier variants, one group has been largely left out of the conversation: 26 million refugees.

In the quest for herd immunity, experts say including refugees in national immunization efforts is critical to ending the pandemic. Yet refugees, most of whom have fled conflict or persecution in their home countries, are missing from more than one-third of countries’ national vaccine plans. Turkey hosts the largest refugee population with 3.6 million people but has not said if they will be included in its national rollout. Neither has Pakistan, which is home to 1.4 million refugees.

At first blush, the coronavirus may not seem that big of a problem with refugee populations. Roughly a year into the pandemic, case numbers among refugees appear to be lower than experts originally predicted. One possible explanation? Demographically, refugees are relatively young—approximately half are under age 18, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Camps also tend to be fairly isolated from urban areas where the virus may spread more freely.

The UK Is the Latest Country to Tighten the Screws on Uber

Aarian Marshall

The country's highest court ruled that the 25 drivers who filed a lawsuit should be considered workers and entitled to minimum wage and vacations.

For four years, the employment status of Uber drivers in the United Kingdom has been like a colorful beach ball: insubstantial, batted from court to court, appearing different depending on where you stand. On Friday, the highest court in the country decided: A group of 25 Uber drivers who brought a case against the company should never have been treated as independent contractors, justices concluded. Instead, the workers are entitled to national minimum wage, paid leave, rest breaks, and discrimination protection.

Islands of Immunity


SINGAPORE and LOMBOK ISLAND, Indonesia—“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent,” poet John Donne famously wrote. But oh, how many of us would wish to live on an island detached from any continent today—especially if that island is Singapore, Taiwan, or one of the many making up New Zealand?

These three island nations have effectively defeated COVID-19 despite their urban population density, proximity to China, and robust international connectivity. Luck was clearly not on their side—but paranoia was. Robust contact tracing, strict lockdowns, enforced quarantines, isolation of vulnerable populations, and other measures were crucial to suppressing the virus in all three places.

The varying locations of these three island nations show that it is not a particular geography that has succeeded but rather a particular geology: the fact of being an island. Beyond this, it’s essential to be hypercautious—as Ireland has been for the most part—rather than flippant—like the larger island next door—or just ill-prepared for the virus’s pugnacious surges, like in Cuba and Sri Lanka where COVID-19 has returned with a vengeance. Even as the coronavirus’s destructive march continues, there is one clear conclusion policymakers can draw: Paranoid islands have been, and will continue to be, the safest places on Earth well into the future.

Paranoid islands have been, and will continue to be, the safest places on Earth well into the future.

America Is Learning to Reject Socialism, but Love the Welfare State


U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney recently released a bold proposal for a cash family benefit that breaks with decades of Republican Party orthodox: markets good, government bad. Romney’s proposal has sparked an extensive debate about how best to design a family benefit, with the Biden administration releasing a rival plan.

The policy world will fight over the merits of these different bills. But together they register a shift in the public debate about the U.S. welfare state. What Romney’s proposal embodies is essentially an effort to remodel the American welfare state—and, by extension, the Republican Party—along the lines of European Christian democracy.

Romney’s “Family Security Act” would provide a monthly cash benefit of $350 for young children and $250 for school-aged children, paid by the Social Security Administration. Families would be eligible for the benefit up to four months before their child’s due date. To create this benefit, Romney proposes eliminating the targeted anti-poverty program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); the Earned Income Tax Credit, a means-tested tax credit that varies depending on the size of your family; and the State and Local Tax Deduction, which largely benefits better-off voters in states that regularly vote Democrat.

Children and family benefits are a staple of European welfare states. But while much of what we associate with the European welfare state was built by robust labor movements and allied social democratic parties, family benefits are a legacy of Christian democracy. Germany’s child benefit system was created in the 1950s under Christian Democratic Union head Konrad Adenauer’s leadership, while France’s was shaped by the Christian democratic Popular Republican Movement in the postwar provisional government.

An illustration of a laser infrared crosslink on a CubeSat NASA


Satellites that use lasers to exchange data promise to make military communications faster and harder to intercept — if the Pentagon can figure out how to make them work.

With plans to launch a 150-satellite constellation into low-earth orbit by September 2024, the two-year-old Space Development Agency is on a deadline. It has already released a communications standard to be used by four companies supplying the laser gear for a four-satellite experiment called tranche zero, agency director Derek Tournear said Tuesday at a Space Foundation event. And by August, Tournear expects to release a request for proposals that will spell out key details for the “more robust” standard needed for the 150-satellite tranche one.

Laser communication between satellites has been around since 2011 but figuring out how to do it at the scale and reliability needed for practical communication is a big challenge. As engineer Allan Panahi’s seminal 2010 paper on the subject explains, space-based laser communication is only possible with a very narrow beam, making it much harder than radio-frequency communication but also much more difficult for adversaries to jam or interfere with. “The requirement for much more pointing accuracy, acquisition, and tracking...and the impact that this may have on the spacecraft that is moving at 3 [kilometers per second] for [geosynchronous orbit] to 7 [kilometers per second] for [low Earth orbit] is a formidable task,” Panahi wrote.

It’s also potentially big money. SpaceX, Facebook, Google and a host of other tech companies are looking at the potential of laser-based communications.

Facebook bans news in Australia as fight with government escalates

By Kerry Flynn

New York (CNN Business)What is Facebook without news? People and publishers in Australia are now finding out.

Facebook (FB) has barred Australians from finding or sharing news on its service, a dramatic escalation of a fight with the government that may have wide-ranging consequences both in the country and around the world.

The social networking company on Wednesday said that people and publishers in Australia will no longer be able to share or see any news from local or international outlets. The decision appears to be the most restrictive move Facebook has ever taken against content publishers.

The company's action comes after months of tension with the Australian government, which has proposed legislation that would force tech platforms to pay news publishers for content.