The United Nations Security Council votes during a meeting at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

United Nations-led efforts to forge a global cease-fire are gaining momentum, as dozens of parties to conflicts around the world have joined Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call to lay down their arms amid the coronavirus pandemic. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote soon on a resolution codifying the global cease-fire, although disputes among the U.S., China and Russia—all veto-wielding permanent members of the council—could still impede the process. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, long-time U.N. watcher and WPR contributor Richard Gowan joins Elliot Waldman for a conversation about conflict resolution and peacemaking efforts amid the pandemic. Gowan […]

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The relationship between the United States and China has waxed and waned over the years, but it has felt more like a roller coaster ride under President Donald Trump. China-bashing was a centerpiece of his election campaign, yet once in office, Trump hailed his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, saying they had “great chemistry.” More than two years later, after Trump had launched his damaging trade war with China and with no deal to resolve it in sight, Trump called Xi an enemy and “ordered” American firms to leave China. By January of […]

Outside view of a U.S. passport service center in New York City, April 21, 2020 (photo by Anthony Behar for Sipa USA via AP Images).

Late on the night of April 20, President Donald Trump abruptly announced on Twitter that he would “temporarily suspend immigration to the United States” as the toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to rise. Trump cast the decision as a response to COVID-19 and its economic devastation—“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” as he tweeted. The move, which caught his own administration off guard, elicited fevered commentary over his legal authority to do so, and its potential economic costs. After an outcry from […]

People watch a news program about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, April 21, 2020 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Steven Metz is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. On April 15, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to make his annual visit to Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang to celebrate the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who is interred there. In North Korea’s dynastic cult of personality, it was a shocking break from tradition, and sparked reports that Kim had undergone major heart surgery and might even be near death. The secretiveness of the North Korean regime always makes it difficult to know exactly what is going on inside the country or […]

A protester waves the Israeli national flag during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv, Israel, April 19, 2020 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Elliot Waldman and Prachi Vidwans talk about the deal struck between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nemesis over the past year, the Blue and White party’s Benny Gantz, to form an emergency government. Gantz justified his decision to break his repeated promises to never form a government with Netanyahu by the need for national unity to tackle the country’s coronavirus outbreak. Judah, Elliot and Prachi also discuss the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on recent elections in South Korea and the U.S., as well as its broader implications for […]

Asylum-seekers wearing masks attend a mandatory immigration court hearing in El Paso, Texas, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Cedar Attanasio).

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has complained that on immigration, the United States has “the worst laws of any country in the world,” which constrain his anti-immigrant agenda at the border with Mexico. He hasn’t been able to convince Congress to change those laws, or even to pay for a wall along the southern border, even after instigating the longest government shutdown in history just to pressure Congress. Trump’s administration has instead sought to chip away at immigration statutes and bend them almost to their breaking point, in order to make it harder for all immigrants, but primarily asylum-seekers, to […]

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Before the coronavirus struck China, the people of Hong Kong had launched a massive push to protect the territory’s partial independence from Beijing. Giant protests had filled Hong Kong’s streets for months last year, as pro-democracy activists inspired millions of residents to join in the demonstrations. But suddenly, everything changed. The outbreak started in Wuhan, then China shut down and the world followed suit. The coronavirus crisis seemed to do for the Chinese regime what months of threats and intimidation had failed to: halt the protests in Hong Kong. Now, with the rest of the world distracted and China reopening […]

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 […]

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at a White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Washington, April 20, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

As a teenager, I watched in confusion as my father, a successful chest surgeon who specialized in infant care, went back to school to gain an advanced degree in public health. This required easing himself out of a job that had always impressed me with its heroics, often literally saving a life or two each week. When my father patiently explained the rationale, I gradually came to not only accept it but admire it, for its logic and even nobility. No matter how hard he worked, in the operating room he could only help a few people each week. But […]

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 worker folds medical gowns at Echota Fabrics, Inc., in Calhoun, Georgia, April 8, 2020 (photo by Alyssa Pointer for Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP).

President Donald Trump’s aggressive unilateralism on trade appears to be driven by his belief that making imported goods more expensive will lead multinational companies—foreign and domestic, but especially American—to relocate production facilities to the United States. There is nascent evidence that Trump’s trade war with China has caused some reshuffling of supply chains, but mainly to other parts of Asia, not to America. Now, though, some trade hawks in the administration appear to view the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to encourage firms to move their supply chains to the U.S., no matter the cost. The Trump administration is not […]

A city worker closes an area of Newport Beach in California, United States, April 10, 2020 (AP photo by Chris Carlson).

This Wednesday, most of us will commemorate the 50th Earth Day not by frolicking in nature but by hunkering down in the comforts of our built environment. That’s a pity, because it’s pretty out there. Suddenly blue skies and cleaner water are showing us what a healthier environment might look like, if only our governments took decisive action to decarbonize the global economy and if we stopped running down the natural capital assets upon which our prosperity and indeed survival depend. Beyond a chance to daydream of a greener future, our current quarantine provides an apt moment to reflect on […]

A sign indicates a COVID-19 checkpoint ahead as a truck crosses the Confederation Bridge in Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick, Canada, March 22, 2020 (photo by Andrew Vaughan for The Canadian Press via AP).

Throughout history, outbreaks of infectious disease have often been linked with illicit trade. A cholera outbreak in Mexico during the 1990s, for example, is believed to have originated with an infected person from South America who arrived on an illegal airstrip used for drug trafficking. The historian Julia Clancy-Smith writes that in mid-19th-century Tunisia, “contraband, quarantine, and cholera worked together.” And while the precise origin of the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the globe is unknown, the illicit wildlife trade in China may have been a major factor. Once they spread widely, infectious diseases also disrupt the illicit drug trade at […]

Voters line up to vote in Wisconsin’s primary election, Milwaukee, April 7, 2020 (AP photo by Morry Gash).

If the April 7 Democratic presidential primary vote in Wisconsin was a test of American democracy’s ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic, then by many accounts, it failed. The lead-up to the election was marred by last-minute partisan wrangling and poor communication with the public. Thousands of absentee ballots went missing or undelivered. And when people showed up to vote, they encountered crowded, under-resourced and under-sanitized polling stations. The state’s leaders have been widely condemned for forcing voters to choose between their health and their democratic rights. Wisconsin’s example shows that without proper preparation, voters across the country could face […]

A man wearing a mask walks through Brooklyn Bridge Park, April 14, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about the things we previously took for granted, didn’t sufficiently appreciate or simply didn’t know—whether on a national or international level—that the coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharper focus. 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 newsletter offers a free preview article every day of the week, plus three more complimentary articles in our weekly roundup […]

A police officer wearing a face mask at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, April 8, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The dusty border town of Taftan in western Pakistan is a frequent stopover for religious pilgrims. Many members of the country’s Shiite minority pass through it en route to visit holy sites in neighboring Iran. But after Iran emerged as one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus, the Pakistani government set up a quarantine camp in Taftan to prevent further movement, inadvertently turning the town into an epicenter for the spread of COVID-19. Testing in the camp is sporadic at best, while health facilities are abysmal. Many pilgrims reportedly paid bribes to escape back into Pakistan, and as […]

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