French police officers patrol a street during a nationwide lockdown to counter COVID-19, Paris, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

The violent protests in Paris’ banlieues this week, after an incident of police brutality, are a clear indication of the social tensions fueled by France’s strict national lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Neither the violence by police nor the riots come as any surprise, given the history of both in the suburban ghettos surrounding France’s major cities, where much of its immigrant and immigrant-origin population lives. But the tensions between France’s overstretched security forces and its population extend beyond the banlieues. Combined with popular dissatisfaction over French President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the pandemic, they risk making Macron […]

Austrian soldiers wearing protective masks at a military ceremony in Vienna, April 27, 2020 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

“We are at war,” French President Emmanuel Macron stressed while announcing a nationwide lockdown last month. He was not alone in his choice of rhetoric, as leaders around the world have invoked battlefield metaphors to galvanize national responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The drama of the analogy certainly makes it a convenient political instrument to justify radical state-led interventions. Yet it also blurs the differences between the current public health crisis and an actual war. During an armed conflict, militaries face human opponents with wills of their own, but there is no such enemy during this pandemic—only an unfeeling virus. […]

Police test facial recognition technology in London, Dec. 17, 2018 (Photo by Kirsty O’Connor for Press Association via AP Images).

The growing prevalence of facial recognition technology in authoritarian countries like Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which use it to monitor activists and suppress dissent, has raised increasing alarm among human rights advocates. Perhaps the most egregious example is in China, where the government has used facial recognition technology to racially profile Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that is concentrated in Xinjiang province, and forcibly lock them up in internment camps. But authoritarian countries are not alone: This technology is now being harnessed for law enforcement and surveillance purposes in many democracies. Last month, for example, India’s government […]

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, center, discusses the novel coronavirus at a news conferences at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 9, 2020 (Keystone photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi via AP Images).

President Donald Trump justified his recent announcement that the U.S. would halt further payments to the World Health Organization by claiming that “the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion” about the coronavirus pandemic. This charge has been widely rebutted by global health experts and practitioners. WHO representatives, journalists and academics have all demonstrated that the organization was doing what it could through diplomatic channels with Beijing to get updated information about the novel coronavirus that first emerged in central China and has since spread around the world. Contrary to Trump’s accusations, […]

A security guard stands next to shuttered shops in Beijing, China, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to mount, so does the economic wreckage. Millions more people are joining the already swollen ranks of the unemployed this week, and oil prices continued their historic rout. China’s GDP contracted for the first time in nearly half a century during the first three months of this year, and the International Monetary Fund predicts that the global economy will shrink by around 3 percent in 2020. Of course, governments and central banks around the world are doing whatever they can to contain the fallout. But will it be enough? For […]

A city worker sprays disinfectant at a public gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, April 11, 2020 (AP photo by Matias Delacroix).

Years from now, when historians and economists begin tallying the devastation wrought by COVID-19, it is likely only a few will focus much on world energy markets. Yet if there is one thing that has snapped into sharper view with the onset of this global pandemic, it is the extremely brittle state of OPEC and the autocratic governments that rely almost exclusively on the cartelization of oil markets to prop up their regimes. In September, OPEC will mark its 60-year anniversary as the world’s most preeminent price-fixing consortium. But it seems far from certain that the governments of the 13 […]

An oil rig lights up the horizon after a late sunset on the outskirts of Midland, Texas, April 2, 2020 (Photo by Eli Hartman for Odessa American via AP Images).

During normal times, if the world’s petroleum producers announced an agreement to slash output, oil prices would immediately spike. During normal times, lower crude prices would boost economic growth. During normal times, low oil prices might be reason to celebrate. But if there is one fact we can agree on, it is that these are not normal times. The global economic crisis triggered by efforts to stop the coronavirus pandemic has not only upended some of the patterns we had grown accustomed to—it has also revealed that many long-standing preconceptions have become outdated. That is evident in the dramatic shifts […]

A property in Hampstead, north London, which is the home of Kazakh national Nurali Aliyev and is the subject of an Unexplained Wealth Order, March 12, 2020 (Photo by Ben Cawthra for Sipa via AP Images).

The United Kingdom has long been infamous as a money-laundering haven, with hundreds of billions of dollars in dirty money passing through its financial system just in recent years. In 2017, the British government decided to deal with all this dirty money by enacting the Unexplained Wealth Orders, a series of regulations allowing authorities to identify and seize assets related to potential corruption and money-laundering cases. But in their three years of existence, the government has pursued a grand total of just one case under the orders, against the wife of a prominent former banker from Azerbaijan, who had fallen […]

Passengers wearing face masks in a metro station tunnel in Barcelona, Spain, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

With China having lifted the lockdown in place in Wuhan since the end of January, and many European countries and parts of the United States beginning to envisage how they, too, will gradually ease social distancing measures, the second phase of the response to the coronavirus pandemic is coming into focus. Central to already active debates in Western democracies, at least, is the balance to be struck between addressing the urgency of the public health crisis and managing the growing impact of social distancing on national economies and individual livelihoods. At first glance, the choice seems to be an obvious […]

A subway passenger holds up a green code on their phone, which allows a person to travel freely, in Wuhan, China, April 1, 2020 (AP photo by Olivia Zhang).

Editor’s Note: You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. In a video uploaded to Twitter on March 16, Carol Yin talked through a white face mask as she explained to the camera what it was like to travel in a country that has turned cell phones into weapons to fight COVID-19. Yin, a Shanghai-based podcaster, described her trip to the nearby city of Wuxi, outside Shanghai, shedding light on how integral a phone’s location data has become […]

A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque, the site of a mass shooting, in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

In this current age of American dystopia, it can sometimes be hard to believe there is any part of Washington that still functions, let alone finds consensus on U.S. national security priorities. So the State Department’s designation this week of the ultranationalist, white supremacist Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organization came as a pleasant surprise. As counterterrorism experts have been warning for years about the threat posed by the proliferation of white supremacist groups, the move to classify the St. Petersburg-based outfit as a transnational threat is a welcome, if overdue, step in the right direction. The U.S. terrorism […]

Health workers react as people applaud from their houses in Madrid, April 1, 2020 (AP photo by Manu Fernandez).

MADRID—On the first Friday in March, Spain was deep into the rigorous hand-washing phase of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, but still about a week away from a lockdown. That night, I met a friend at a quiet tapas bar close to home. Afterward, we went to another bar in the Arguelles neighborhood, a popular late-night haunt for students at several nearby universities. It was the typical Friday pandemonium of people yelling orders, drinks and plates being passed around, and used napkins covering the floor. As I washed down my Spanish omelet with a glass of Verdejo, I looked […]

A man wearing a protective mask walks in the middle of the street in Paris, April 10, 2020 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about what the second phase of the coronavirus pandemic will look like. As China lifts the strict confinement measures that had been imposed on Wuhan since January, and several countries in Europe begin to consider lifting restrictions on movement, what can we expect in the weeks and months ahead? If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The […]

The newly elected Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, delivers a speech at Westminster Cathedral Hall, London, Jan. 31, 2020 (PA Wire photo by Stefan Rousseau via AP Images).

LONDON—The British Labour Party finally concluded its protracted leadership contest last weekend, four long months after suffering its worst election defeat since before World War II. The result came as no surprise, with the former shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, replacing Jeremy Corbyn as party leader after romping to a first-round victory with 56.2 percent of the vote—more than twice as much as the Corbynite runner-up, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and far ahead of third-place finisher Lisa Nandy. Starmer, who hails from Labour’s social democratic “soft left,” is expected to lead a more moderate party than Corbyn did, but Labour will […]

Volunteers distribute food to hundreds of families in Benton Harbor, Michigan, April 2, 2020 (Photo by Don Campbell for The Herald-Palladium via AP Images).

In times of hardship and uncertainty, many people tend to assume the worst-case scenario—or at least plan for it. Followers of the Survivalist movement have taken this idea to an extreme, creating a lifestyle from the perceived inevitability of disaster—be it nuclear war, natural disaster or global pandemic. Inherent in this worldview is the idea that in times of extreme duress, our treasured social bonds break down and we revert to a kind of Hobbesian state of nature, competing with other humans for scarce resources. Dan Gardner, a journalist, author and senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School […]

Stockpiles of medical supplies at the Javits Center in New York, March 24, 2020 (AP photo by John Minchillo).

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, countries should be using every available tool to expand production of critical medical supplies and cooperating to avoid complete chaos. But instead, they are increasingly fighting over pieces of a too-small pie and going it alone. With dire, heartbreaking shortages of personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses and ventilators for the desperately ill, some governments have responded by restricting their exports. A few major grain exporters have begun restricting food exports. More inexplicably, some countries continue to collect duties on imports of essential medical supplies, though that is finally starting to change. […]

Graffiti of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wearing a protective mask in Rio de Janeiro, April 7, 2020 (AP photo by Silvia Izquierdo).

Plenty of observers have rushed to predict that the COVID-19 pandemic will seriously harm the political fortunes of populists, or even make populism the outbreak’s first “ideological casualty.” Populists, they assert, vilify experts; now we are all learning that the price of not listening to experts may well be our own lives. Populists, it is also often said, are the great simplifiers; now we need experienced bureaucrats and leaders who can deal with a complex challenge. Yet this valiant attempt to see a silver lining in this political moment is itself highly simplistic. Populism is not primarily characterized by hostility […]

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