The China challenge and critical next steps for the United States


Under President Xi Jinping, a newly-assertive China is pursuing a sophisticated “whole-of-society” strategy that exploits all elements of state power to strengthen its position in the world and diminish U.S. power and influence.

China uses all of the traditional tools of the state to exert influence: an expanded military presence, and the aggressive deployment of espionage to steal military, and industrial secrets.

But it’s also using more creative mechanisms—that take advantage of its authoritarian model to force Chinese companies, researchers, and others to act on behalf of China’s national interests. In 2015 and 2016, China enacted new laws requiring all Chinese citizens and companies to act in support of “national security” and the Chinese government.

All of this has set the stage for China to aggressively deploy every lever of power in service to the state—and, at the same time, exploit the openness of our society to gain geopolitical and economic advantage.

Source: The China challenge and critical next steps for the United States

Hardliners target Iran’s president as U.S. pressure grows | Reuters


When he succeeded firebrand leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2013, Rouhani was seen as an establishment figure who would do little to end Iran’s long standoff with the West. Two years later, his administration signed the nuclear deal with six world powers that spurred hopes for wider political change.

Rouhani’s authority is now waning: his brother, a key adviser on the 2015 deal, has been sentenced to jail on unspecified corruption charges, a hardline rival heads the judiciary and his government is under fire for responding too softly to U.S. President Donald Trump’s sanctions squeeze.

Source: Hardliners target Iran’s president as U.S. pressure grows – Reuters

Carbon Dioxide Reaches Levels Unseen in 3 Million Years | Time


The concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has reached levels not seen for 3 million years, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii said Monday – offering a dire warning about the impact of human activity on the planet.

The observatory’s sensors registered carbon dioxide levels of 415 parts per million (ppm) on Saturday, meaning CO2 made up 415 of ever 1 million molecules of gas in the atmosphere.

CO2 – which is emitted when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas – is a greenhouse gas which traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, contributing to the global temperature increases which drives climate change.

Source: Carbon Dioxide Reaches Levels Unseen in 3 Million Years | Time

Is ‘Made in China 2025’ a Threat to Global Trade? | Council on Foreign Relations

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The Chinese government has launched “Made in China 2025,” a state-led industrial policy that seeks to make China dominant in global high-tech manufacturing.

The program aims to use government subsidies, mobilize state-owned enterprises, and pursue intellectual property acquisition to catch up with—and then surpass—Western technological prowess in advanced industries.

For the United States and other major industrialized democracies, however, these tactics not only undermine Beijing’s stated adherence to international trade rules but also pose a security risk.

Washington argues that the policy relies on discriminatory treatment of foreign investment, forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft, and cyber espionage, practices that have encouraged President Donald J. Trump to levy tariffs on Chinese goods and block several Chinese-backed acquisitions of technology firms.

Meanwhile, many other countries have tightened their oversight of foreign investment, intensifying debate over how best to respond to China’s behavior.

Source: Is ‘Made in China 2025’ a Threat to Global Trade? | Council on Foreign Relations

How the Birth of Cities Created an Anxious Middle Class | US News


The first cities started as entrepreneurial places where manufacturers and traders could show off innovative wares every day without having to wait for the occasional fair or festival.

And customers enjoyed the ability to show off their savoir-faire while engaging in a constant cycle of upgrading and discarding clothing, ornaments and home décor.

Their ability to pay was directly tied to the expansion of employment in cities, where big populations and economies of scale came with a need for middle managers in the palaces, factories and temples that kept the city humming.

In the ancient Mesopotamian city of Nippur, for example, written documents reveal a temple inventory of 350,000 sheep and goats. Keeping track of them would have rivaled any modern corporation’s organizational chart!

Source: How the Birth of Cities Created an Anxious Middle Class | Cities | US News

Coca-Cola’s Research Contracts Allowed It to Kill Unfavorable Studies | Pacific Standard

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The food and beverage industry has a history of influencing public-health research by funding favorable studies. A study published this week suggests that Coca-Cola also used its grants to do the reverse: Several of its corporate contracts with American and Canadian universities allowed the company to terminate research projects without reason‚ a practice that consumer advocates have heavily criticized as biased.

The study, published on Wednesday in the Journal of Public Health Policy, examines research agreements with four universities: Louisiana State University, the University of South Carolina, the University of Toronto, and the University of Washington.

Source: Coca-Cola’s Research Contracts Allowed It to Kill Unfavorable Studies – Pacific Standard

‘Golden Spike’ event marks 150th anniversary of Transcontinental Railroad | Reuters

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Thousands of visitors, many of them train enthusiasts, are expected to crowd onto a remote bluff in northern Utah for a day of speeches, music and a historical re-enactment marking the 150th anniversary of the first U.S. Transcontinental Railroad.

The three-day “Golden Spike” celebration opens on Friday at Promontory Summit, 66 miles (106 km) northwest of Salt Lake City, where the Central Pacific Railroad from the west was joined to the Union Pacific Railroad from the east on May 10, 1869.

Source: ‘Golden Spike’ event marks 150th anniversary of Transcontinental Railroad – Reuters

Can India Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government? | Time

Of the great democracies to fall to populism, India was the first.

Populists come in two stripes: those who are of the people they represent (Erdogan in Turkey, Bolsonaro in Brazil), and those who are merely exploiting the passions of those they are not actually part of (the champagne neo-fascists: the Brexiteers, Donald Trump, Imran Khan in Pakistan).

Narendra Modi belongs very firmly to the first camp.

He is the son of a tea seller, and his election was nothing short of a class revolt at the ballot box. It exposed what American historian Anne Applebaum has described as “unresolvable divisions between people who had previously not known that they disagreed with one another.”

There had, of course, been political differences before, but what Modi’s election revealed was a cultural chasm. It was no longer about left, or right, but something more fundamental.

The nation’s most basic norms, such as the character of the Indian state, its founding fathers, the place of minorities and its institutions, from universities to corporate houses to the media, were shown to be severely distrusted.

Sabka saath, sabka vikas–“Together with all, development for all”–was Modi’s slogan in 2014.

As India votes this month, the irony of those words is not lost on anyone. Not only has Modi’s economic miracle failed to materialize, he has also helped create an atmosphere of poisonous religious nationalism in India.

Source: Can India Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government? | Time

What Facebook Could Have Been | Nextgov


The myth of the lone genius perpetuates the false idea that Facebook (or Google, or Slack, or any other successful technology startup) arose in the solitary minds of their founders.

But the stage was already set for these ideas. By the time I made my Facebook cousin in 2002, Pyra Labs and Movable Type had made blogging ubiquitous. Friendster, an early social network, launched that year, and MySpaceand LinkedIn appeared the next.

Personal publishing and online networking were fusing before Zuckerberg came on the scene. Even Zuck basically stole the idea for Facebook from his Harvard classmates, the Winklevoss twins.

For more than a decade, nobody thought about the alternatives that didn’t get pursued thanks to Facebook’s rise.

Source: What Facebook Could Have Been – Nextgov

The International Criminal Court Is in Danger of Being Bullied Into Irrelevance


In mid-April, a panel of judges at the International Criminal Court rejected Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity that may have been committed during the long U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Ahead of the decision, the Trump administration had waged an aggressive campaign against the case, which threatened to reveal atrocities committed by U.S. forces, including American troops and Central Intelligence Agency officials.

Though the ICC judges acknowledged that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in Afghanistan, they determined that a successful investigation was not feasible. Essentially, they acknowledged that ongoing U.S. intransigence was likely to derail the investigation.

Source: The International Criminal Court Is in Danger of Being Bullied Into Irrelevance