• Economic analysisHow Economists Are Trying to Answer Coronavirus Questions

    Epidemiologists, virologists and other health experts are throwing everything they have at understanding the new coronavirus, hoping to develop treatments, vaccines and strategies to slow its spread and limit its toll. Eduardo Porter writes in the New York Times that economists, too, have broken from other work to explore what they can add to understanding a world upended by disease.
    Every Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research puts out a batch of “working papers,” offering an early view of research from the world’s top economists. The most recent list included a paper on how more intensive testing for the coronavirus would allow for less strict quarantines, a piece about how mobility restrictions reduced the spread of the disease in China, one on how to assess the costs and benefits of different policies to reduce the coronavirus transmission rate and another about strategies to ensure compliance with stay-at-home orders in Italy.
    One study just published looked at pandemics back to the 14th century, concluding that they inhibit investment and increase savings for decades, depressing an economy’s central interest rate. Another evaluated the short-term macroeconomic shock from the virus and assessed ways to respond.

  • Historical perspectiveHow Governments Respond to Pandemics Like the Coronavirus

    Sir Richard J. Evans, the provost of Gresham College, in London, is one the preëminent scholars of the Third Reich and modern Germany. Best known for his trilogy about Hitler and the Second World War, Evans has also extended his scholarship to numerous other areas, including pandemics. In 1987, he published Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years (1830-1910). More recently, he gave a series of lectures at Gresham College titled “The Great Plagues: Epidemics in History from the Middle Ages to the Present Day.”
    Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker recently spoke by phone with Evans in the hope of bringing some historical perspective to the coronavirus pandemic—in particular, to understand how leaders throughout history, including those with authoritarian leanings, have reacted to health emergencies. During their conversation, they discussed how new technologies, from the railways to modern medicine, have shaped outbreaks, the different ways in which the United Kingdom and the United States have responded to the coronavirus, and why, even under different forms of government, “it’s the epidemic that’s calling the shots.”

  • GermanyGermany Outlines Plan for Scaling Back Coronavirus Lockdown

    Germany has drawn up a list of steps, including mandatory mask-wearing in public, limits on gatherings and the rapid tracing of infection chains, to help enable a phased return to normal life after its coronavirus lockdown is set to end on 19 April.
    France24 reports that a draft action plan compiled by the Interior Ministry and seen by Reuters on Monday, says the measures should be enough to keep the average number of people infected by one person below 1 even as public life is allowed gradually to resume.
    Germany has been under lockdown, with restaurants and most shops closed, since March 22. With the impact of lockdown all but certain to tip Europe’s largest country into recession this year, policymakers are anxious to see normal life resume.
    The document envisages a staged return to normality, backed by mechanisms that will make it possible to track more than 80 percent of people with whom an infected person had contact within 24 hours of diagnosis. Infected people and those they had contact with will be quarantined, either at home or in hotels.
    The document assumes the pandemic will last until 2021.

  • AustraliaScott Morrison Indicates “Eliminating” COVID-19 Would Come at Too High a Cost

    Scott Morrison has made clear his view that any attempt to eliminate COVID-19 entirely in Australia would carry too high an economic cost, while Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says such an aim would require “very aggressive” long-term border control.
    Michelle Grattan writes in The Conversation that the national cabinet will soon receive advice from its medical experts on various scenarios for the way ahead, but the Prime Minister, speaking at a joint news conference with Murphy on Tuesday, effectively ruled out the most ambitious.
    New Zealand is trying for elimination, but has had to go into a stringent lockdown to pursue it. Elimination was the policy adopted in the source of the virus – Wuhan in China.

  • Nordic countriesCoronavirus: Why the Nordics Are Our Best Bet for Comparing Strategies

    By Paul W Franks

    Comparing the effectiveness of policies different countries employ to combat coronavirus is made difficult, if not meaningless, when comparing how different countries as different as South Korea, China, Italy, and the U.K., because we may find that the impression of how different interventions work is obscured by many other factors. From a scientific perspective, and in the absence of better models, the Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland – which are culturally, economically, politically and geographically similar – may, serendipitously, represent a powerful intervention trial. Currently, 15 million people here have been assigned to a lockdown, while a further 10 million have been asked to simply act responsibly. While it is too early to have definite answers about what works best, interesting insights can already be gleaned.

  • DenmarkDenmark to Reopen Schools and Kindergartens Next Week

    Denmark’s government has announced plans to reopen kindergartens and schools up until age 10-11, as it takes the first steps in a gradual lifting of the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
    The Local reports that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that the government was opening schools for students up until class five first, because the requirement to care for them represented a greater burden on society.
    The opening of schools and services for the youngest means that some parents will have peace to.work undisturbed. We need that, because many tasks are left undone,” she said during a press conference.
    “I understand that there will be both parents and teachers who will be concerned about becoming infected. That is why children and adults should be outside as much as possible. There should also be more distance between the children when inside. There needs to be more cleanliness. And if you are the least ill, then you have to stay home.”
    The government said that adults, who on March 12 were asked to work from home if at all possible, could now start to return to their workplaces more often if they took care to “follow the general guidelines on appropriate behavior.”

  • DemocracyHow Will the Coronavirus Reshape Democracy and Governance Globally?

    The new coronavirus pandemic is not only wreaking destruction on public health and the global economy but disrupting democracy and governance worldwide. It has hit at a time when democracy was already under threat in many places, and it risks exacerbating democratic backsliding and authoritarian consolidation. Already, some governments have used the pandemic to expand executive power and restrict individual rights. Yet such actions are just the tip of the iceberg.
    Frances Z. Brown, Saskia Brechenmacher, and Thomas Carothers write for the Carnegie Endowment that the coronavirus will likely transform other pillars of democratic governance—such as electoral processes, civilian control of militaries, and civic mobilization—and potentially reset the terms of the global debate on the merits of authoritarianism versus democracy. The pandemic will almost certainly usher in broader effects on governance by overburdening countries’ basic governance functions, taxing their sociopolitical cohesion, exacerbating corruption, unsettling relations between national and local governments, and transforming the role of nonstate actors.

  • Authoritarian regimesAuthoritarian Regimes Seek to Take Advantage of the Coronavirus Pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating efforts among authoritarian governments as regimes tighten their grip at home while seizing the opportunity to advance their agenda abroad. Over the past several years, autocratic governments have become increasingly assertive in nature. James Lamond writes for the Center for American Progress that an illiberal and undemocratic model of governing—championed primarily by Russia and China—has appeared to gain currency, particularly as the United States and other democracies turn inward to deal with domestic challenges. As former NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2019, “Tyranny is once again awakening from its slumber.” This assertiveness does not stop at national borders; just last year, the U.S. Intelligence Community warned that “Russia and China seek to shape the international system and regional security dynamics and exert influence.”
    Beyond the serious implications for the citizens of each respective country, if this trend continues, it could lead to a dangerous new level of competition among world powers at exactly the time when they need to be working together to combat a global pandemic and other emerging threats.
    There are three clear trends of how authoritarian states have responded to COVID-19 in ways that could have ramifications that will last far beyond the pandemic response: consolidating power at home; seeking geopolitical advantage amid the crisis; and trying to weaken democracies from within.

  • PerspectiveThreats to Democracy Spread with the Virus, We Must Keep Both in Check

    As the coronavirus pandemic has spread, governments have responded predictably to the threat by agitating for increased authority. Melissa Hooper writes that the worst of these, the Hungarian proposal, was easily enacted into law on Tuesday, “setting a terrible precedent for other countries, in the West and around the world.” She adds: “Under the legislation, Hungary’s parliament will be disempowered in favor of rule by executive decree. The parliament now loses the ability to check the power of Viktor Orbán and his executive branch. Since the Fidesz government has hamstrung its court system, already limiting judicial oversight, this would remove the last obstacle to a dictatorial government. This is especially true since expanded executive power will be granted indefinitely: The bill has no sunset clause.”

  • ArgumentAmerica Is Acting Like a Failed State

    A global pandemic is a test — a mandatory exam — in national competence, Derek Thompson writes. It is a test for individuals, companies, and institutions. “And it is, above all, a test for the state. Only the national government can oversee the response to a national outbreak by coordinating research on the nature of the disease.” He adds: “In a country where many individuals, companies, institutions, and local governments are making hard decisions for the good of the nation, the most important actor of them all—the Trump administration—has been a shambolic bonanza of incompetence.”

  • GuyanaCourt Blocks Fraudulent Declaration of Election Results

    The Supreme Court of Guyana on Sunday issued an injunction against the government-controlled Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), blocking its declaration of fraudulent results for the 2 March national election. After the opposition PPP amassed winning margins in most of the country, the tallying of the results of Region 4- Georgetown was suddenly “shut down” and a mysterious “spreadsheet” – adding 25,000 fraudulent votes - was read-out by appointees of the governing APNU party. The U.S., U.K., EU, and International Observers denounced the APNU spreadsheet as a clear “fraud” which substantially inflated ANPU votes to make-up for a loss in the election. They demand that the already-counted votes, from the remaining 400 polling sites in Region 4 – which give the PPP a victory - be tallied.

  • Courts & scienceCourtrooms Seldom Overrule Bad Science

    In television crime dramas, savvy lawyers are able to overcome improbable odds to win their cases by presenting seemingly iron-clad scientific evidence. In real-world courtrooms, however, the quality of scientific testimony can vary wildly, making it difficult for judges and juries to distinguish between solid research and so-called junk science.

  • WhistleblowersProtecting Anonymity of Glassdoor Commenter

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is asking a state court to protect the identity of an anonymous Glassdoor commenter who is being targeted by their former employer. EFF filed a motion to quash a subpoena for identifying information of its client after the cryptocurrency exchange company known as Kraken filed suit against several anonymous reviewers seeking to identify them based upon a claim that they breached their severance agreements. Speakers’ opinions about their former workplace are protected by the First Amendment, EFF says.

  • Considered opinion: Early release of terroristsLondon's Latest Terror Attack Shows Harsher Punishment Is Needed

    By The Telegraph

    On Sunday, 20-year old Sudesh Amman, who had been released from prison on 22 January after being jailed for terror-related offense, stabbed two people in a south London store before being shot and killed by the police. Amman served less than half his three-year, four-month sentence for terrorism offenses. The security services had concerns about his behavior, including language that suggested he continued to hold extremist views, but he had to be released under current laws. Calls are growing for changing these laws.

  • PerspectiveJewish Student Accuses College of Ignoring Wild Anti-Semitism

    A former Pennsylvania college student says in a lawsuit that she dropped out before the start of her junior year because of a string of hateful and threatening anti-Semitic incidents that the school failed to appropriately address.