Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

28 March 2020

Why Widespread Coronavirus Testing Isn’t Coming Anytime Soon

By Robert P. Baird
Link

A critical shortage of swabs and other testing components is, in many cases, making it impossible for labs across the country to expand their capacity

This past Thursday, Donald Trump visited the National Response Coordination Center for a teleconference with the nation’s governors about how to handle the covid-19 pandemic. The center, which is situated inside the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, in Washington, is designed, in the agency’s words, to coördinate “the overall Federal support for major incidents and emergencies.” Trump—along with Mike Pence, and several other Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials—sat around a table in a gray-walled conference room, while the governors were patched in from around the country. The governors said their states needed personal protective equipment (P.P.E.) for health-care workers, ventilators for patients, block grants for their balance sheets, and the National Guard to build hospitals and distribute food. They also needed tests. Kristi Noem, of South Dakota, said that her state’s public-health laboratory—the only lab doing covid-19 testing in the state—had so much trouble securing reagents that it was forced to temporarily stop testing altogether. “We, for two weeks, were requesting reagents for our public-health lab from C.D.C., who pushed us to private suppliers, who kept cancelling orders on us,” she said. In order to get her public-health lab the reagents it needed, Noem said, “we had to get a little pushy with a few people.”

Trump and his team sought to reassure the governors. Admiral Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, who was appointed two weeks ago to coördinate the federal effort to get testing back on track, said, “We’re very effectively transitioning to large-scale testing by leveraging all components of our American health-care system, including C.D.C. and the state public-health labs, health care and hospitals, and large commercial labs.” Giroir told the governors that, in the twelve days between March 2nd and March 14th, more than ten million tests had been made available in the U.S. And, citing numbers from the F.D.A., he suggested that another seventeen million would be added by March 28th. “We have plenty of tests on the back side. We have plenty of supplies on the front side,” Giroir said. Pence, too, emphasized that “now tens of thousands of more tests are being performed literally every day,” while Trump, responding to Noem’s difficulties securing reagents, told her not to be concerned. “We got you, Kristi,” he said. “There is tremendous supply.”

A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Post Pandemic World

by Muqtedar Khan

The COVID-19 pandemic could transform the world. Many geopolitical experts are concerned that this crisis, more than any other this century, has the potential to permanently reconstitute the global order. Some are even arguing that while the United States is abdicating global leadership during the current pandemic, China is using it to reinforce its growing status as the alternate destination for economic aid, medical and scientific support, and leadership for many nations, including Western and developed nations like Italy. Some commentators claim that China is using the crisis to dethrone the United States as the global superpower. 

While it is difficult to predict the overall death toll, socio-political disruption, and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a few things are already manifest. The main vehicle of COVID-19’s destructive impact will not be through its potentially significant death toll but rather through its economic fallout. There will be a sustained global economic recession that will impact some countries harder than others. All major powers – the United States, China, Europe, and Russia will come out bruised and battered by the pandemic, and in the Middle East, Iran – the only counter-hegemonic player – will be definitely downsized in economy and state capacity. While the United States’ soft power has declined in the age of Trump, the crisis now tarnishes the larger-than-life images of Xi Jinping of China, Narendra Modi of India, and other populist leaders. Even European nations’ aura of good governance and exemplary healthcare systems has lost its shine. The pandemic is proving to be a great leveler. 

The Great Disruption is a Great Opportunity

How Government Failure Gave Birth to the Coronavirus Crisis



Paul R. Pillar
Link
The several ways in which President Donald Trump’s methods of operation—including his lies, refusal to accept responsibility, and downplaying problems to protect his personal image and political standing—have spelled a failure of leadership in the current coronavirus crisis have already become familiar. Columnists and commentators have had much to say about this, as have the financial markets. Another now-familiar pattern has been that a significant number of other countries have out-performed the United States in their response to the crisis, according to such measures as the speed of responding, the comprehensiveness of testing, and the appropriateness of protective steps taken. Those strong performers have included states hit hard by the virus as well as ones that—thanks in large part to their effective responses—have been spared the worst of the pandemic.

One of the strongest of these performers is Singapore. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Singapore’s handling of the crisis and has singled it out as a model for other countries to follow. Singapore faces significant vulnerabilities to the virus as a high-density city-state in East Asia with many personal and commercial connections to China. But at last count, it had not recorded any deaths from coronavirus, with just over two hundred of its people infected and about half of those already recovered.

The WHO and others highlight the specific steps Singapore has taken, including very aggressive contact tracing and complete transparency with the public regarding patterns of infection. But also useful in understanding the difference in performance is to take a broader look at the underlying political and cultural differences between Singapore and Trump’s America. One dimension on which those two polities are poles apart is the degree of respect for public service, including professional civil servants.

How to Stop the Coronavirus from Destroying America


Link 
by Lee Drake, March 24, 2020

If you have a 3D printer at home or at your workplace, then you can help manufacture N95 respirators.

For at least a decade, technology has been a source of solutions. Need a ride? Want takeout? Want to identify a fraudulent transaction out of a million legitimate ones? Is this you at a banquet last July? The pace of development has made technology synonymous with empowerment. 

Until coronavirus.

With a pandemic sweeping the globe, what can you do to help if you've spent your time with computers and gadgets? The good news is that there are some things that can be done, some easy, some challenging. 

The coronavirus strain threatening the world, SARS-CoV-2, emerged in December 2019 with the first cases in China. Scientists are rushing to understand how it invades our cells and co-opts them into coronavirus producing machines. A key way to understand these cellular attacks is to simulate them - what vulnerabilities do our proteins have? Does coronavirus have any vulnerabilities itself we could exploit to make treatments?

$10 a Barrel Oil Is Possible: Can American Energy Independence Survive the 2020 Oil War?

by Anthony Fensom

President Trump has suggested America still has “a lot of power over the situation” and could yet find a middle ground. The U.S. leader will need all his famed dealmaking ability and more though to pull off what could be a deal of the century with Saudi Arabia, to keep U.S. energy independence and the shale industry alive.“Trust me, this will be a regrettable day.”

The declaration by the Saudi energy minister, Prince Abbdelaziz Bin Salman, at the March 6 “Black Friday” OPEC plus meeting has proven accurate as the world’s energy giants engage in a war over the black gold, causing prices to crash and sparking bankruptcy fears for the entire U.S. shale industry.

With America’s energy independence under threat, can the nation’s oil and gas industry survive the fallout?

‘No Plan B’

After restraining supply since 2017 to support prices, the fateful meeting in Vienna had seen the OPEC oil cartel seek additional production cuts of 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) from April.

3 February 2020

The future of work in America: People and places, today and tomorrow


The US labor market looks markedly different today than it did two decades ago. It has been reshaped by dramatic events like the Great Recession but also by a quieter ongoing evolution in the mix and location of jobs. In the decade ahead, the next wave of automation technologies may accelerate the pace of change. Millions of jobs could be phased out even as new ones are created. More broadly, the day-to-day nature of work could change for nearly everyone as intelligent machines become fixtures in the American workplace.

Until recently, most research on the potential effects of automation, including our own, has focused on the national-level effects. Our previous work ran multiple scenarios regarding the pace and extent of adoption. In the midpoint case, our modeling shows some jobs being phased out but sufficient numbers being added at the same time to produce net positive job growth for the United States as a whole through 2030.

The day-to-day nature of work could change for nearly everyone as intelligent machines become fixtures in the American workplace.

24 December 2019

Who are America’s allies and are they paying their fair share of defense?

Lindsey Ford and James Goldgeier

The Vitals

The word “ally” has been in the news a lot in recent months. Members of Congress have criticized President Trump for abandoning our Kurdish “allies” in Northern Syria and complained that the president was undermining our “ally” Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Trump reiterated his belief that “our allies take advantage of us far greater than our enemies,” and in advance of the December NATO Leaders Meeting, the United States announced cutbacks in its support for common funding at the headquarters. Americans have frequently been told that allies matter, but what exactly does it mean to be a U.S. “ally”? And why are relationships deemed so vital to American security frequently so contentious?

America’s alliances in Asia and Europe have formed the backbone of what has become known as the “liberal international order.” Over the past 70 years, this order has helped protect American interests and values.

Not every country that is referred to as an “ally” meets the formal definition of a country that America has said it is willing to defend in case of attack.

The question of how to create “fair” burden-sharing arrangements has been a long-standing issue in U.S. alliances, but on balance, the United States has reaped enormous benefits from these relationships. 

25 November 2019

Evo Morales’s Chaotic Departure Won’t Define His Legacy


In the wake of Evo Morales’s departure from office earlier this month after nearly 14 years as president of Bolivia, the country is in political chaos. More than 30 people have died as a result of ongoing unrest, and protests over the weekend led to food shortages in some cities. Interim President Jeanine Áñez has promised new elections, but the timeline remains unclear.

Morales’s exit, amid pressure from the military and mass protests, was a mess, and the country faces an uncertain political future. But Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, won’t be remembered primarily for his abrupt resignation, the turmoil that followed, or even for the democratic backsliding that marked the latter years of his presidency. His legacy will be the transformation of Bolivian society through the enfranchisement of the country’s indigenous population.

Morales’s national political career was born in the mid-1980s amid the contention generated by the long U.S.-led crackdown on drugs in Bolivia, during which he served as the paramount leader of coca grower unions in the Chapare region, where the majority of Bolivian coca is grown. Coca has been a traditional crop among the indigenous people of the Andes for centuries. Chewed or brewed as tea, it is a mild stimulant, ubiquitous in Bolivia. But it can be refined into cocaine—the international trade in which much of the country’s crop ultimately winds up. The Chapare was ground zero for decades of low-intensity war between coca growers and both Bolivian and U.S. law enforcement.

24 November 2019

The Crisis in Bolivia Roils a Rapidly Changing Latin America

Frida Ghitis

When Bolivia’s Evo Morales resigned the presidency under pressure from the military and left the country amid widespread protests on Nov. 12, taking political asylum in Mexico, it sent shockwaves across Latin America. Morales’ fall comes at a time of ferment in the region—and what looks increasingly like a hinge moment in Latin American history.

Whether Morales was the victim of a coup or the perpetrator of an assault against democracy, rightfully deposed, remains the subject of heated debate. That continuing controversy is part of the push-and-pull of the tensions roiling Latin America, where the political tide appears to be changing, but no one is exactly sure in what direction. ...

23 November 2019

After the End of the 'Pink Tide,' What’s Next for South America?


Earlier this year, it seemed as if the “pink tide” of leftist governments that swept across Latin America in the early 2000s had all but retreated. The wave of conservative governments that replaced them owed their rise in part to the region’s economic difficulties following the end of the commodities boom of the first decade of the 21st century. But they also took advantage of the failure by many of the leftist leaders to translate that economic boom into sustainable advances for the lower and middle classes. The election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil last year, after a campaign spent vilifying women as well as marginalized and indigenous communities, was a particular blow to the region’s progressives.

More recently, the South American left has shown signs of a revival. Argentina’s center-left Peronist candidate, Alberto Fernandez, ousted the market-friendly incumbent, Mauricio Macri, in that country’s October presidential election. Macri had won office in 2015 pledging to remedy the economic missteps of his Peronist predecessor, but his austerity measures and heavy borrowing triggered an economic crisis that cost him the presidency. And massive protests in Ecuador and Chile forced the governments in those countries to backtrack on austerity measures, calling into question in the case of Chile the country’s longstanding neoliberal economic model.

20 November 2019

America's Allies Are More Important Than AI Or Cyber In A War

by Nathaniel L. Moir

Technology cannot overcome human judgment and relationships.

Google’s recent “Quantum Breakthrough” is great for American science but irrelevant for foreseeable conflict. It is ironic that “quantum supremacy” emerged in late October while America conceded its small but stabilizing position in Syria. The Syria decision is understandably construed as unwise because it relieves pressure on ISIS, forfeits a presence now occupied by Russia, and it provides Iran a corridor to Hezbollah in Lebanon. As it currently stands, the U.S. may possess the most advanced computing power known to humankind. Still, none of it ensures commitment to allies, such as Kurds forsaken by the United States, let alone the formation of wise foreign policy elsewhere. Quantum supremacy, A.I., and other technological advancements will not compensate for commitments and partnerships we abandon. 

The dissonance between advancing technology and retreating political commitments to allies should buzz between the ears. The problem is also embodied by the fact that, while the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) poses over a dozen essential and enduring questions on A.I.'s future, the most basic components of warfare -- political rationale for operations and partnered cooperation -- are kicked to the curb. How can we square the circle when the problem is more like a parallelogram? 

16 November 2019

This is How America's National Debt Could Grow by $7 Trillion

by Rachel Greszler

Tacking as much as $6.7 trillion onto our national debt to cover broken pension promises would raise the average household’s debt burden by $52,000, to $230,000.

On Oct. 31, the national debt hit $23 trillion. That’s equivalent to a credit card bill of $178,000 for every household in America.

This marks an enormous increase. Even after adjusting for inflation, it’s a jump of $60,000 over just 10 years for the average household.

In other words, even after accounting for inflation, the U.S. added more debt per household over the past 10 years than it did over its first 200 years.

Low interest rates today make our debt seemingly manageable, but the higher America’s debt grows, the more likely it is that rates could suddenly spike, sending terrible shocks throughout the economy.

In Chile, Protests Show No Signs of Dying Down


With Chile's protests poised to enter their fifth week, the prospects for a timely and tidy resolution are dim. Already, the sustained demonstrations in Santiago and other cities have led to at least 20 deaths, cost the economy an estimated $1.5 billion and forced the government to cancel the mid-November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the last minute. Following the spread of demonstrations into Santiago's wealthier neighborhoods earlier this week, President Sebastian Pinera unveiled a carrot-and-stick approach on Nov. 7: While announcing plans to enhance the government's ability to monitor and punish violent protesters, he also heralded the beginning of "citizen dialogues" next week.

But government concessions and efforts at dialogue will be hard-pressed to resolve the factors fueling the protests for two reasons: the deep-seated nature of the grievances and the fragmented nature of the groups voicing them. And for businesses operating in Chile, that will mean continued disruption to operations and transportation in urban areas, as well as the threat of more arson and looting.

12 November 2019

America’s Original Identity Politics

By Charles King

“You know what I am?” U.S. President Donald J. Trump said at a rally in October 2018. “I’m a nationalist.” Rich Lowry’s The Case for Nationalism can be seen as a way of working through, and defending, what the president meant. As the editor of National Review, the prominent conservative magazine, Lowry is an intellectual gatekeeper on the American right. He was one of the speakers at the National Conservatism conference in July 2019, an event that brought together such thinkers as J. D. Vance and Patrick Deneen, with keynotes by the billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel and the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, along with a notorious intervention on the perils of immigration by University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax. 

Lowry’s central claim is that Americans are, and have been from their country’s founding, a nation and not a community of universal ideas. Although intellectuals and left-wing pundits are openly hostile to expressions of national sentiment, the United States has a unique national tradition that is today obscured by fissiparous identity politics. If Americans reacquaint themselves with their true national heritage, they will be better equipped to overcome dangerous tribalism, protect their borders, and make their country great again. To the degree that the United States has a global role, it should be as “vindicator of the prerogatives of other democratic nation-states”—in other words, a defender of the idea that a world of culturally defined nations is humanity’s state of nature.

23 September 2019

The American Working Man Still Isn’t Working

By Jason Furman

The United States is in the midst of its longest-ever economic recovery. It has been a slow climb out of the depths of the 2008–9 financial crisis, but the upward trend is now in its 11th year. American workers have seen 107 consecutive months of job growth, more than double the previous record, and the unemployment rate will soon reach its lowest level in over 50 years. However, there is one important economic indicator that still hasn’t rebounded to pre-crisis levels: the employment rate among prime-age men—that is, men between the ages of 25 and 54.

On the eve of the recession at the end of 2007, 12.8 percent of prime-age men didn’t have jobs. Now that figure stands at 13.7 percent. The headline unemployment rate for this group has fallen—from four percent to 3.1 percent—but only because many of these men have simply given up looking for work. When they stopped actively searching for jobs, they no longer qualified as “unemployed.” Instead, the government labeled them as “out of the labor force,” a designation that lowers the unemployment rate but is no less harmful to the economy.

11 September 2019

Does America have a moral imperative to stay in Afghanistan forever?

Damon Linker

After 18 years of waging war in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is attempting to pull back. But critics have responded with outrage. What's the point of trying to reach a deal with the execrable Taliban? How can we contemplate abandoning the Afghan government when the country could be plunged into civil war or worse?

The implication of these objections is clear: Eighteen years has been insufficient. The U.S. should be willing to guarantee Afghan security and stability — including playing Whack-a-Mole with Taliban insurgents — with no end in sight. Anything less than such an open-ended commitment is tantamount to a surrender — and surrendering to America's enemies should be considered unacceptable, no matter the cost in blood and treasure.

There's just one problem with this line of reasoning: It's based entirely on a single false premise, one that has helped to justify every American military intervention since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

To understand it, let's start with Afghanistan. If we define American interests narrowly, to involve defending the American homeland from attack and the country's most vital strategic relationships with its allies and trading partners from interference by rivals and adversaries, the case for staying in Afghanistan is incredibly weak. The country is poor, feeble, on the other side of the planet, and no longer serving as a base of operations for terrorists with the capacity to launch international attacks. Even with significantly fewer troops in the country, the U.S. military will retain the capacity to strike quickly and decisively against any terrorist groups with international ambitions that seek to re-establish themselves.

3 September 2019

A Persistent Crisis in Central America


Violence and corruption in Central America, particularly in the Northern Triangle countries, is causing a wave of outward migration. The Trump administration's response to the problem could make it worse. Meanwhile, newly elected reformist leaders in El Salvador and Panama face opposition from entrenched interests that benefit from the status quo. Explore WPR's extensive coverage of the Central America crisis.

For years, Central America has contended with the violence and corruption stemming from organized crime and the drug trade. Now the countries of the region also find themselves in U.S. President Donald Trump’s line of fire, due to the many desperate Central Americans who make their way across Mexico to seek asylum at the United States’ southern border. 

The steady stream of outward migration is driven by ongoing turmoil, particularly in Nicaragua and in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The three Northern Triangle countries rank among the most violent in the world, a legacy of the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, which destabilized security structures and flooded the region with guns. In that context, gangs—often brought back home by deportees from the U.S.—have proliferated, and along with them the drug trade and corruption, fueling increasing lawlessness. Popular unrest has done little to produce political solutions, leading many of the most vulnerable to flee. 

13 August 2019

The Enduring American Presence in the Middle East

By Daniel Benaim And Michael Wahid Hanna 
Judging by the headlines, the last two years of U.S. Middle East policy seem to be marked by a whiplash-inducing series of radical shifts. U.S. President Donald Trump ran on opposition to a foreign policy of “intervention and chaos,” then ramped up U.S. airstrikes from Somalia to Syria. He announced a complete pullout of U.S. troops from eastern Syria in December, declaring, “They’re all coming back and they’re coming back now,” only to reverse himself and then trumpet additional military deployments to the region to counter Iran six months later. He has simultaneously decried his predecessor’s overinvestment in the Middle East and his weakness there. 

These conflicting signals have allowed wildly different interpretations of the Trump administration’s posture in the Middle East. Focusing on one announcement leads to warnings of a new war; focusing on others allows for proclamations of a “post-American era” in the Middle East. Yet most Middle East watchers seem to agree that something fundamental about America’s presence in the region is changing. 

9 August 2019

How Fishing Boats Have Become Warships

by Markos Kounalakis

Deep-sea fishing charters are a staple of most American coastal marinas—from Miami to the San Francisco Bay. Boats loaded with fuel and fun rock their way out on gentle waves to open waters and ocean sunsets. Summer freedom at its finest.

Now, imagine if the million registered floating funhouses in Florida and the million plus in California were suddenly impressed into the U.S. Navy to run offensive operations ramming ships or sent on snooping day-sails. If you can picture this, then you have a sense of other countries’ new hybrid navies. Around the world, fishing boats have become the new warships.

Fighting on the high seas and in ports of call is always treacherous, but the dangers just got worse. Battling against navy ships and subs trying to sink fleets, stake out seas, or show force now also means that every trawler, research vessel, fishing boat, and dinghy is also a potential combatant.

12 July 2019

A New Americanism

By Jill Lepore 

In 1986, the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bowtie-wearing Stanford historian Carl Degler delivered something other than the usual pipe-smoking, scotch-on-the-rocks, after-dinner disquisition that had plagued the evening program of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association for nearly all of its centurylong history. Instead, Degler, a gentle and quietly heroic man, accused his colleagues of nothing short of dereliction of duty: appalled by nationalism, they had abandoned the study of the nation.

“We can write history that implicitly denies or ignores the nation-state, but it would be a history that flew in the face of what people who live in a nation-state require and demand,” Degler said that night in Chicago. He issued a warning: “If we historians fail to provide a nationally defined history, others less critical and less informed will take over the job for us.”