Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks at U.N. headquarters in New York, Jan. 27, 2020 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

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. Six months in, it is tempting to think the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is past. Hard-hit cities are breathing easier and many countries are already in the advanced stages of reopening their societies and economies. But even as a second wave looms, COVID-19’s first wave isn’t done. Globally, the contagion is accelerating as the pandemic’s epicenter shifts. The increase from 8 million to 9 million cases took […]

Closed lanes at the Peace Arch border crossing between the U.S. and Canada,  in Blaine, Wash., May 7, 2020 (AP photo by Elaine Thompson).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Edward Alden is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott. Along North America’s 49th parallel, where it meets the Pacific Ocean, a huge white stone arch stands on the border between the United States and Canada. Called the Peace Arch, it was built in 1921 to commemorate the resolution of boundary disputes that dated back to the War of 1812. Inside the arch, there is an iron gate attached to both walls, and an inscription that reads, “May these gates never be closed.” Since March 21, in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the […]

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with G-7 leaders during a videoconference on the coronavirus pandemic, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 16, 2020 (pool photo by Gonzalo Fuentes via AP Images).

When does a global catastrophe stimulate a revival of international cooperation, rather than accelerate fragmentation and disorder? When does a crisis become a turning point in international relations, rather than just augur more of the same? These questions loom large in the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest shock to world politics and the global economy since 1945. While history provides no definitive answers, it hints at three preconditions for resurrecting international cooperation from the ashes: new thinking, enlightened leadership and a favorable distribution of power. It was in reaction to World War II, and the economic chaos that preceded it, that […]

A youth waits to enter the San Nicolas Tolentino cemetery in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, April 30, 2020 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

While the health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have been primarily endured by elderly populations, there is increasing recognition that young people will disproportionately absorb the economic and social impacts. One study, conducted in April and released last month by the International Labor Organization, found that the pandemic had caused one in six young people to lose their jobs, as well as a 23 percent average reduction in working hours for those still employed. Within this “lockdown generation,” as the ILO calls them, the situation is especially dire for women, ethnic minorities and migrant workers. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general […]

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley listens, at the White House, Washington, April 1, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

In the most heated moment so far of the anti-racism protests unfolding in the United States, something remarkable happened. After President Donald Trump made some of the most incendiary and alarming statements of a presidency filled with them, military figures that had kept quiet started speaking out. But it resulted in the type of political reassurance that is normally only needed in countries whose commitment to democracy is questionable. Many observers who worry about the state of American democracy under Trump felt relief when top military leaders, one after the other, started rebuking the president’s assaults on basic democratic norms. […]

Prisoners stand outside the federal correctional institution in Englewood, Colorado, Feb. 18, 2020 (AP photo by David Zalubowski).

Democratic backsliding and encroachments on the rule of law by autocratic governments have justifiably received significant attention in recent years. Yet troubling and dangerous as these trends are, there is another, often-overlooked threat encroaching on the rule of law in countries around the world: mass incarceration. In many nations, imprisonment has become the default criminal punishment. Pretrial arrest and detention are also commonplace, with millions of people in jail awaiting trial around the world, sometimes for years. A recent report, Global Prison Trends 2020, published by the criminal justice advocacy group Penal Reform International and the Thailand Institute of Justice, […]

A man wears a face mask as he walks on Pier 45 in New York, April 30, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

With the coronavirus pandemic showing no sign of relenting, experts are warning that the prolonged isolation and psychological trauma associated with the virus could cause a spike in mental health problems. For this week’s interview on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s Elliot Waldman talked about the mental health impacts of COVID-19 with Susan Borja, chief of the dimensional traumatic stress research program at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Listen to the full conversation here: And if you like what you hear, subscribe to Trend Lines: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify The following interview transcript has […]

A sign for Zoom in New York, April 18, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. American video-conferencing company Zoom recently admitted that it crossed a line by temporarily closing the account of a group of U.S.-based Chinese activists last month after they held a virtual event to commemorate the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Zoom insisted that it did so in order to “comply with local law,” but without stating which law it had violated. Zoom has since pledged that censorship requests from the Chinese government will no longer affect users […]

Protesters call for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist, in Oxford, England, June 9, 2020 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

In the comfort zones of a bygone world, from prosperous and stable societies in Western Europe to Japan and Australia, the three-plus years of Donald Trump’s presidency have led to a prolonged season of worry. Friends and allies there have watched and wondered anxiously about whether the values they admire most about the United States, even with its many deep flaws, will endure. Washington under Trump has appeared to be heading off solo in uncharted directions, abandoning one by one the bedrock ideas long associated with America, like defending democracy, promoting alliances and building international institutions, as well as more […]

A medical officer makes her rounds treating psychiatric patients in a public housing complex in Brooklyn, New York, May 6, 2020 (AP photo by John Minchillo).

As the staggering death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to mount, less obvious but nonetheless dangerous threats are starting to rear their ugly heads. Depression, despair, extreme stress and trauma are just a few of the secondary maladies that can flare up during a multi-dimensional crisis like this one. For today’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Susan Borja, chief of the dimensional traumatic stress research program at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland, for a conversation about the potential mental health impacts of COVID-19. Click here to read the full transcript of […]

President Donald Trump speaks to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during an event to sign a new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, at the White House, Washington, Jan. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

For weeks, trade has taken a back seat to Black Lives Matter protests and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, however, trade was back on the front page with stunning charges from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, about an alleged attempt by President Donald Trump to manipulate U.S.-China trade negotiations for his personal political gain. This past week also saw U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifying before Congress about the Trump administration’s trade agenda, while both U.S. and European officials threatened an escalation in their dispute over digital services taxes. The overall message from all this was clear: […]

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, in the village of Qusin near Nablus, June 5, 2020 (AP photo by Majdi Mohammed).

July 1 is an ominous day for Palestinians, when Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is set to leap forward into formal annexation. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held onto his office by forging a power-sharing agreement with his political rival, Benny Gantz, that gave him the authority he needed to deliver on his biggest campaign promise: unilaterally annexing Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as soon as next month. The plans for annexation prompted a reckoning in Ramallah, where President Mahmoud Abbas announced last month that the Palestinian Authority would no longer coordinate with Israel on security […]

Representatives of 50 countries attend the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the U.N. Charter, in San Francisco, California, April 25, 1945 (AP Photo).

Seventy-five years ago this Friday, humanity accomplished something miraculous. On June 26, 1945, while World War II was still raging across the Pacific, 50 nations gathered at San Francisco’s Opera House to sign the Charter of the United Nations.* The culmination of years of planning, the new international organization was intended “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Although the United Nations would often fall short of that lofty goal, its creation was a monumental achievement, providing the foundation for a rules-based international order. The San Francisco conference had opened to great fanfare on April 25, 1945. Mindful […]

The demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office building in Kaesong, North Korea, June 16, 2020 (Korean Central News Agency photo via AP Images).

What a difference two years makes. The spring and summer of 2018 saw an extraordinary rapprochement between the two Koreas, as their leaders held successive face-to-face meetings, culminating in a landmark visit by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang. The flurry of diplomacy produced a number of joint declarations, agreements, hotlines and other confidence-building measures, including an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, just 6 miles into North Korean territory from the Demilitarized Zone. It was the first full-time communication channel and served as a de facto embassy between the two sides, which are technically still at war having not […]

Protesters hold a photo of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a rally near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, June 12, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Amid a storm of domestic crises, and with less than five months until Election Day, President Donald Trump suddenly faces the prospect of having his signature foreign policy initiative, once quietly stalled, unravel spectacularly. Trump took personal charge of the daunting North Korea file early on, all but proclaiming victory after a groundbreaking, made-for-TV meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in Singapore two years ago, immediately after which he announced on Twitter: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Back then, that sounded preposterously premature. Today, it brings faint echoes of Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 declaration […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prior to a NATO leaders meeting in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

President Donald Trump has never been a fan of alliances. He has complained repeatedly in the past that U.S. allies in Europe and East Asia “don’t pay enough for their defense,” and has demanded that Japan and South Korea quadruple the amount of money they pay as a share of the cost of hosting U.S. military bases in their territory. More recently, Trump announced he was pulling 10,000 troops out of Germany, more than a quarter of its military presence in the country. The political scientist Mira Rapp-Hooper has just published a timely new book, “Shields of the Republic: The […]

A Black Lives Matter march to protest the death of George Floyd, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 7, 2020 (AP photo by Gene J. Puskar).

For the past four years, the United States has been trending, as they say about social media, and not in a good way. It began with a presidential campaign in which Donald Trump, the eventual winner, called Mexicans rapists and showered playground insults on his Republican rivals. For most of the postwar period, an underrated secret of American power has been to avoid this kind of spotlight. It made other countries and their problems, and not the United States itself, the focus of global attention: human rights here, massacres there, famines, rebellions, coups and more. The global diet of news […]

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