• PerspectiveBans on Foreign Equipment in U.S. Critical Infrastructure

    One executive order does not a trend make, but maybe two do. On May 1, President Trump issued an executive order banning the acquisition, importation, transfer or installation of any bulk electric power system equipment where the secretary of energy has determined, first, that the equipment was manufactured by a company controlled by—or subject to the jurisdiction of—a foreign adversary and, second, that the transaction poses an undue risk to the U.S. bulk-power system, economy or national security. Jim Dempsey writes “The order’s issuance signals that the administration’s efforts to purge from the nation’s telecommunications network any equipment made in China may represent a new approach to critical infrastructure in general.”

  • SurveillanceGerman Intelligence Cannot Spy on Foreigners Outside Germany without a Warrant

    The German government must come up with a new law regulating the German intelligence service (BND), after the country’s highest court ruled that the current practice of monitoring telecommunications of foreign citizens at will – that is, without a court warrant — violates constitutionally enshrined press freedoms and the privacy of communications. Until now, the BND had considered foreign nationals living outside Germany essentially fair game, on the assumption that they were not protected by Germany’s constitution.

  • Last frontierU.S. Seeks to Change the Rules for Mining the Moon

    By Scott Shackelford

    At the moment, no company – or nation – is yet ready to claim or take advantage of private property in space. But the $350 billion space industry could change quickly. Several companies are already planning to explore the Moon to find raw materials like water; Helium-3, which is potentially useful in fusion nuclear reactors; and rare earth elements, which are invaluable for manufacturing electronics. Anticipating additional commercial interest, the Trump administration has created new rules through an executive order following a 2015 law change for how those companies might profit from operations on the Moon, asteroids and other planets. Those rules conflict with a longstanding international treaty the U.S. has generally followed but never formally joined.

  • ExtremismGermany: Politicians Worry about Radicalization at Anti-Lockdown Protests

    By Elizabeth Schumacher

    German lawmakers from across the political spectrum on Monday warned that the growing wave of anti-lockdown protests could provide fertile ground for radicalization and recruitment for far-right extremist groups and anti-vaccine campaigns. Over the weekend, thousands of people gathered in cities across Germany to demand an end to restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • PerspectiveAssessing Cyber Risk from External Information

    There is a vision for the future of assessing cybersecurity: The goal is a system of cyber metrics that are transparent, auditable, practical, scalable and widely agreed upon. To that end, it is useful—indeed, imperative—to evaluate various approaches to cyber risk quantification with the aim of informing the development of a public standard for measuring cybersecurity.

  • Democracy watchPoliticians in Central Europe, Balkans Exploited Epidemic to Weaken Democracy

    Freedom House’s latest edition of its Nations in Transit report finds that a growing number of leaders in Central and Eastern Europe have dropped even the pretense that they play by the rules of democracy. The report says that the coronavirus epidemic has created an inflection point for these regimes, offering them a pretext to tighten their authoritarian control even more. Three countries – Hungary, Serbia, and Montenegro – “have all left the category of democracies entirely,” the report says.

  • Nuclear powerAn Atomic Catch 22: Climate Change and the Decline of America's Nuclear Fleet

    By Eric Scheuch

    Nuclear energy in the United States has become deeply unprofitable in the last decade, driven by a combination of aging infrastructure and other electricity sources like renewables and natural gas simply becoming cheaper to build and operate. While some in the environmental community may cheer nuclear’s decline, others are concerned. Love it or hate it, nuclear plays a unique role in the American electric sector, one for which we currently have no market-ready replacement, and its decline will likely make other environmental issues, particularly climate change, harder to solve.

  • PrivacyNew Privacy Threat Combines Device Identification with Biometric Information

    A new study by computer scientists has revealed a new privacy threat from devices such as smartphones, smart doorbells and voice assistants that allows cyber attackers to access and combine device identification and biometric information.

  • PrivacyThe COVIDSafe App Was Just One Contact Tracing Option. These Alternatives Guarantee More Privacy

    By Kelsie Nabben and Chris Berg

    Since its release on Sunday, experts and members of the public alike have raised privacy concerns with the Australian federal government’s COVIDSafe mobile app. Many Australians have said that they worried about “the security of personal information collected” by the app. In its coronavirus response, the government has a golden opportunity to build public trust. There are other ways to build a digital contact tracing system, some of which would arguably raise fewer doubts about data security than the app.

  • ExtremismExtremists and Conspiracy Theorists Urge Resistance to “Medical Martial Law”

    In the past month, anti-government extremists, conspiracy theorists and others chafing under coronavirus restrictions have led a rising chorus of angry opposition to public health measures promulgated by federal and state governments. This growing movement promotes opposition to and noncompliance with these measures, which they believe are driven by ulterior motives.

  • Tracking & privacyExamining Australia’s COVIDSafe Tracing App

    The Australian government releases an App called COVIDSafe to help in tracing contacts of those infected with the coronavirus. As is the case with similar apps in other countries, COVIDSafe has raised privacy concerns, especially about the potential of abuse by government agencies and hacking by cybercriminals. The University of Sydney academics from the disciplines of cybersecurity, media, law and health comment on COVIDSafe, its pros and cons.

  • FirearmsChild-Care Operators and Firearms

    Home- and center-based child care providers are not required by most states or U.S. territories to inform parents when guns are stored on the premises, according to a new study. The study also found that nearly one-quarter of U.S. states and territories had no regulations governing firearms in child care centers, and one-sixth had no regulations governing firearms in family child care homes.

  • PerspectiveAutocrats See Opportunity in Disaster

    The world is distracted and the public need saving. It is a strongman’s dream. All the world’s attention is on COVID-19. The Economist writes that rulers everywhere have realized that now is the perfect time to do outrageous things, safe in the knowledge that the rest of the world will barely notice. Many are taking advantage of the pandemic to grab more power for themselves. No fewer than 84 have enacted emergency laws vesting extra powers in the executive. “In some cases, these powers are necessary to fight the pandemic and will be relinquished when it is over. But in many cases they are not, and won’t be. The places most at risk are those where democracy’s roots are shallow and institutional checks are weak.” The Economist continues: “Take Hungary, where the prime minister, Viktor Orban, has been eroding checks and balances for a decade. Under a new coronavirus law, he can now rule by decree. He has become, in effect, a dictator.”

  • PerspectiveUnderstanding Hungary’s Authoritarian Response to the Pandemic

    In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, governments around the world have taken measures — border closures, enhanced surveillance, dramatic speech and media restrictions, election postponements, and shuttering of legislatures and courts – purportedly aimed at containing the spread of the disease. Laura Livingston writes that while some forbearance of civil liberties is reasonable in the face of a grave threat, “the pandemic has already served as an opportunity for would-be authoritarians to consolidate the power they have long coveted.” No other ruler has gone further than Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who, critics charge, is well on his way to turning Hungary into the EU’s first dictatorship.

  • Economic analysisHow Economists Are Trying to Answer Coronavirus Questions

    Epidemiologists, virologists and other health experts are throwing everything they have at understanding the new coronavirus, hoping to develop treatments, vaccines and strategies to slow its spread and limit its toll. Eduardo Porter writes in the New York Times that economists, too, have broken from other work to explore what they can add to understanding a world upended by disease.
    Every Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research puts out a batch of “working papers,” offering an early view of research from the world’s top economists. The most recent list included a paper on how more intensive testing for the coronavirus would allow for less strict quarantines, a piece about how mobility restrictions reduced the spread of the disease in China, one on how to assess the costs and benefits of different policies to reduce the coronavirus transmission rate and another about strategies to ensure compliance with stay-at-home orders in Italy.
    One study just published looked at pandemics back to the 14th century, concluding that they inhibit investment and increase savings for decades, depressing an economy’s central interest rate. Another evaluated the short-term macroeconomic shock from the virus and assessed ways to respond.