• Cashless societyCoronavirus Crisis Accelerates March Towards Cashless Society

    The march towards a cashless society has gathered pace during the lockdown with analysts more confident than ever that the end is nigh for notes and coins, Harry Shukman writes in The Times.

  • Iran’s nukesSnapback of Sanctions under the Terms of the Nuclear Deal Is Fully Justified Today

    By David Albright

    “If Iran today wants a serious discussion about sanctions relief, it should start by abandoning the key threat Tehran poses to international peace and security: its uranium enrichment program,” writes David Albright, a nuclear weapons expert and the president of the Institute for Science and International Security. “Instead, Iran holds its own people hostage over the deadly coronavirus outbreak in a cynical campaign for wholesale sanctions relief.” The willingness of Iran’s leadership to refuse epidemic aid and thus dramatically, and unnecessarily, increase the number of sick and dying Iranians; the willing of the leadership to intensify and deepen the severe economic deprivation and misery across the country – and do all that in order to grow an economically nonviable, menacing uranium enrichment program — “That alone should lead all to consider just what is the real purpose of Iran’s enrichment program,” Albright writes.

  • RulesAs States Reopen, Tensions Flare Between the Rule Followers and Rule Breakers

    By Michele Gelfand

    As countries reopen their economies, tensions escalate between those who believe it is safe now to resume normal business activity – and even ignore social distancing and the need to wear face masks – and those who prefer a more cautious, slower path toward something resembling pre-coronavirus life. These differences aren’t just random personality types; they reflect our primal social mindsets – what I call “tight” and “loose” mindsets. And unless these differences are better understood, it will be that much more difficult to navigate life under COVID-19.

  • LockdownThe Government’s One‑Size‑Fits‑R Lockdown Is Bad Health Policy and Bad Economics Too

    “It was when Matt Hancock used the term ‘reproduction number’ for the 15th time in his latest press conference that I stopped counting. R, as this concept is also known, has become the government’s new totem, the driver of policy, the means of calibrating our response to the dangers of COVID-19….  As a concept, it is certainly seductive. R, as everyone now knows, refers to the average number of people that one infected person will transmit the virus to,” Matthew Sayed writes in The Times. But “R is, after all, an average for the entire UK. As a single point estimate, it doesn’t take into account the marked regional differences in transmission. It takes no account of the variance between different settings, such as care homes and factories. It takes no account of the fact that the spread of the virus isn’t the same for each person but is shaped to a significant degree by superspreading events. Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist and the author of The Rules of Contagion, estimates that 80% of transmission occurs via as little as 10% of the population.In other words, the R number for the majority of us is, in fact, zero.”

  • China syndromeCanada-Detained Senior Huawei Executive a Step Closer to Being Extradited to U.S.

    A Canadian judge has rejected efforts by a senior Huawei executive to evade extradition to the United States to face a series of charges. Meng Wanzhou was arrested in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant while on a stopover at the Vancouver international airport. Meng is charged with lying to prospective investors by hiding the fact that Huawei was selling communication gear to Iran in breach of U.S. sanctions. The Canadian investors would have been legally and financially exposed to U.S. penalties because their investment in Huawei would have made them unwitting participants in breaching the sanctions.

  • PerspectiveMapping the China Debate

    The debate over U.S. foreign policy toward China is often reduced into the usual hawk-versus-dove metaphor. Hawks see U.S.-China great power competition as requiring a more aggressive posture, while doves worry about the downsides of an adversarial relationship. Ganesh Sitaraman writes that this dualist frame glosses over the fact that neither camp has a shared set of views. Rather, both hawks and doves contain a variety of subgroups—and some subgroups disagree with others on critical policy questions. “But without tractable categories for analysis, the debate over policy toward China is too often imprecise and confusing.”

  • China syndromeU.K. Set to Reverse Huawei Decision

    In a dramatic turnaround, the British government will in a few days announce that it was reversing its decision earlier this year to allow Huawei to provide components for Britain’s 5G communication infrastructure. In January, the government said it would push for a deal which would allow Huawei to supply up to 35 percent of the components of the new 5G network, and that these components would be allowed only on the “edge” of the networks, not the networks’ “core.” The government is now set to announce that Huawei’s components will not be allowed in the U.K. 5G networks, and that all of the Chinese company’s gear will be removed from older communication networks by the end of 1922. The government’s January deal would probably have failed to gain approval in parliament, as Conservative backbenchers who oppose the January deal now have more than enough votes to block it.

  • Market manipulationHow Market Manipulation in the Age of Pandemic Is Destroying Traditional Safe Havens

    The Coronavirus pandemic has created enormous volatility in global financial markets but prices of safe haven assets such as gold and bitcoin are not surging, as one might expect, thanks to intense and large-scale manipulation, according to analysis by the University of Sussex Business School. The contrast with the last major global financial catastrophe is telling. Following the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, the correlations between the S&P 500 index and gold, or the Swiss Franc, or U.S. Treasuries were all around minus 40%. During March and April 2020 the correlation between the S&P 500 index and gold was plus 20%. The University of Sussex says that even more surprising is the behavior of the bitcoin/US dollar rate – since this cryptocurrency emerged in January 2009 its behavior was completely uncorrelated with any traditional asset, but as the S&P 500 index plummeted in early March 2020, so did bitcoin. Their correlation was plus 63% then, and it remains unsettlingly high at 40%. The biggest beneficiaries of these market attacks, beyond those placing the trades, are holders of US dollars and US assets. These become the main sources of positive returns for global investors in attempts to curtail the recent trend of some central banks to diversify their reserves away from the US dollar.

  • Exit strategyIsraeli experts propose radical post-corona exit strategy

    By Abigail Klein Leichman

    The biggest worry as we start emerging from isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic: How do we return to schools and businesses without triggering a fresh outbreak? Israeli mathematicians suggest a staggered approach to reenter public places and workplaces without causing a new outbreak.

  • PerspectiveBans on Foreign Equipment in U.S. Critical Infrastructure

    One executive order does not a trend make, but maybe two do. On May 1, President Trump issued an executive order banning the acquisition, importation, transfer or installation of any bulk electric power system equipment where the secretary of energy has determined, first, that the equipment was manufactured by a company controlled by—or subject to the jurisdiction of—a foreign adversary and, second, that the transaction poses an undue risk to the U.S. bulk-power system, economy or national security. Jim Dempsey writes “The order’s issuance signals that the administration’s efforts to purge from the nation’s telecommunications network any equipment made in China may represent a new approach to critical infrastructure in general.”

  • DisinformationTriad of Disinformation: How Russia, Iran, & China Ally in a Messaging War against America

    By Clint Watts

    China has long deployed widespread censorship, propaganda, and information manipulation efforts within its borders, but information operations directed at foreign audiences have generally focused on framing China in a positive way. In the last two months, however, Beijing, showing itself willing to emulate Russia’s approach to information campaigns, has conducted a much more ambitious effort not only to shape global perspectives about what’s occurring inside China, but to influence public opinion about events outside its borders.

  • Last frontierIncreased Extraterrestrial Ambitions Threaten the Future of Space

    As the number of nations and businesses across sectors look outward to space for new opportunities — and commercial space activities grow — the sustainability of space exploration is more important than ever. as more private sector entities get involved in commercial space activities, the more important it becomes for stakeholders to agree on norms and rules if we are to coordinate space activities to the benefit of everyone.

  • Last frontierU.S. Seeks to Change the Rules for Mining the Moon

    By Scott Shackelford

    At the moment, no company – or nation – is yet ready to claim or take advantage of private property in space. But the $350 billion space industry could change quickly. Several companies are already planning to explore the Moon to find raw materials like water; Helium-3, which is potentially useful in fusion nuclear reactors; and rare earth elements, which are invaluable for manufacturing electronics. Anticipating additional commercial interest, the Trump administration has created new rules through an executive order following a 2015 law change for how those companies might profit from operations on the Moon, asteroids and other planets. Those rules conflict with a longstanding international treaty the U.S. has generally followed but never formally joined.

  • Water securityComparing Water Risk Tools for Companies and Investors

    Faced with worsening water security across the globe, companies and investors are increasingly concerned about the water risks faced by their operations, supply chains and investments – and looking for tools to help to assess these risks. New report details similarities and differences between three leading water tools.

  • Truth decayAustralian Investigators Debunk 5G-COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory

    One of the more bizarre conspiracy theories recently created is the one claiming a connection between 5G technology and the virus. Believers argue that that either 5G was responsible for coronavirus, due to the construction of 5G networks in Wuhan, or for “poisoning cells” which created coronavirus. An Australian parliamentary investigation has now debunked this particular piece of misinformation.