What We Are Reading

What We Are Reading

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United States Records Its Worst Week Yet for Virus Cases

Lauren Leatherby / The New York Times

The outlook for the pandemic continues to worsen, and many areas of the United States are experiencing their worst weeks yet. The country reported a record of more than 500,000 new coronavirus cases in the past week.

Pompeo Ends China-Knocking Tour of Asia With Stop in Vietnam

William Mauldin / The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended an Asian tour focused on criticism of Beijing with a last-minute stop in Vietnam, which is tangled in disputes with its neighbor China in the South China Sea.

American Competitiveness

U.S. Household Spending Rose 1.4% in September

Amara Omeokwe / The Wall Street Journal

U.S. households boosted spending by 1.4% in September, the fifth straight month of increases, as higher pay and remaining pandemic aid helped boost incomes.

Euro Zone Economy Surges in Third Quarter Before Expected Blow from New Lockdowns

Jan Strupczewski / Reuters

The euro zone economy rebounded much more than expected in the third quarter from its coronavirus-induced slump, but the recovery is likely to be cut short as countries reintroduce restrictions to stem a second wave of the pandemic.

Asymmetric Operations

Ivory Coast Tensions Rise as President Seeks 3rd Term

Krista Larson / AP News

Opposition activists are threatening to block access to polling stations on Saturday in an effort to disrupt the presidential election in Ivory Coast, where incumbent Alassane Ouattara is seeking a controversial third term after nearly a decade in power.

Violent Criminal Groups are Eroding Mexico’s Authority and Claiming More Territory

Mary Beth Sheridan / The Washington Post

The arrest this month of Mexico’s former defense minister stunned the nation, with U.S. prosecutors alleging he had helped a cartel send thousands of kilos of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to the United States. But the crisis confronting Mexico goes far beyond the occasional headline-grabbing bust.

Climate Security

Navy Base in LA., Air Force Base in Miss. Remain Closed After Hurricane Zeta Hits Region

Rose L. Thayer / Stars and Stripes

A Navy base in Louisiana and an Air Force base in Mississippi were closed Thursday as military personnel survey the damage left behind after fast-moving Hurricane Zeta barreled through the region Wednesday night.

Energy Security

Georgetown University to Power Campus with Electricity from Solar Plants

Lauren Lumpkin / The Washington Post

Georgetown University will meet more than two-thirds of its energy needs with electricity from solar plants starting in November, as part of an agreement that will lessen the school’s dependence on traditional grid-based power. The university has been buying renewable-energy certificates, or RECs, for its electricity needs since 2013.

‘Astro-Stays’ Brings Tourists and Solar Power to Himalayan Villages

Rina Chandran / Reuters

An Indian social business that leads Himalayan treks to set up solar micro-grids in remote mountain villages plans to expand its clean-energy work to other countries facing similar challenges, after winning a United Nations climate award. Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) has brought solar electricity to more than 130 Indian villages, benefiting about 60,000 people, while setting up home-stays for tourists that have generated more than $100,000 in income for villagers.

Fusion Energy

UK Fusion Experiment Used in Hunt for Clean Energy

Paul Rincon / BBC

A pioneering nuclear fusion experiment based in Oxfordshire has been switched on for the first time. Mast Upgrade could clear some of the hurdles to delivering clean, limitless energy for the grid.

National Security Strategy

Strong Earthquake Strikes Aegean Sea, Shaking Turkey, Greece


A strong earthquake struck the Aegean Sea on Friday and was felt in both Greece and Turkey, where some buildings collapsed in the coastal province of Izmir and a government minister said people were trapped in rubble.

National Security & Space

Why NASA’s moonshot, Boeing, Bezos and Musk Have a Lot Riding on U.S. Election

Joey Roulette and Eric M. Johnson / Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump’s differences with rival presidental candidate Joe Biden extend far beyond planet Earth. President Trump’s plans to win the race in space call for a 2024 moon mission, and ending direct U.S. financial support for the International Space Station in 2025 – turning over control of the decades-old orbital laboratory to private space companies. Biden, on the other hand, would likely call for a delayed moonshot and propose a funding extension for the International Space Station.

Public Diplomacy

Russia’s Reputation, Olympic Status on Trial for Doping

Graham Dunbar / AP News

Russia’s status as an Olympic team, and its reputation as a serial cheater in international sports, goes on trial next week in more legal fallout from the country’s state-backed doping saga.

Angered at French Call to ‘Reform’ Islam, Tens of Thousands Gather in Protests Across Muslim-Majority Countries

Sarah Dadouch, Kareem Fahim, and Nader Durgham / The Washington Post

Anti-French protests erupted across Muslim-majority countries on Friday, with tens of thousands expressing anger over the French government’s call for ‘reform’ of Islam, a day after three were killed in a church in what President Emmanuel Macron referred to as ‘an Islamist terror attack.’

U.S. – Russia Relationship

Exclusive: Russian Hackers Targeted California, Indiana Democratic Parties

Raphael Satter, Christopher Bing, and Joel Schectman / Reuters

The group of Russian hackers accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election earlier this year targeted the email accounts of Democratic state parties in California and Indiana, and influential think tanks in Washington and New York.

Recent Reports

Perspective – U.S. Strategy in the South China Sea

Madeline McLaughlin

As the U.S. seeks to strengthen its position in the South China Sea, this paper examines strategies to increase American leadership and boost allies in the region.

Fact Sheet — Nuclear Arsenals of the U.S., Russia, and China

Matthew Wallin

This fact sheet explores the basic statistics behind each country’s nuclear capabilities and explores the prospects of Chinese inclusion in a trilateral nuclear agreement with Russia and the United States.

On Our Flashpoint Blog

America’s Expo Quandary

Patrick Hines

World expositions have become major events that countries take seriously. For the United States to not equally participate would be an economic as well as diplomatic misfortune.

Iranian PMUs in Venezuela

Juan Soto

It is unclear how successful Iranian-backed PMUs in Venezuela would fare, but their potential poses a concern for U.S. security and highlights the unpredictable implications that economic sanctions can have on authoritarian regimes.

The Daughters of Yalta with Catherine Katz

Annie Aleman

Host Andrew Holland and Catherine Katz, author of The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Love and War discuss how the personal and political can be intricately intertwined in the art of diplomacy.

A Ballistic Dis-Missile? Reevaluating North Korea’s Nuclear Threat

Olivia Popp

For better or for worse, North Korea’s new ICBM merely reaffirms what the U.S. already knows: that North Korea is a legitimate nuclear threat that must not be forgotten amidst standoffs with other adversaries like China. No matter its true capabilities, the Hwasong-16’s presence is a cautious reminder and clear demonstration that past U.S. diplomatic efforts have failed and that North Korea still intends to push the envelope on its nuclear expansion.

Vulnerability to Climate Change and Gender-Based Violence in the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Katie Foley

Climate-induced disasters in Myanmar have strained government resources, fueled conflict, and prolonged suffering for Rohingya refugees, especially Rohingya women and girls.

A New Electoral Mandate: Decentralization and Local Politics in Ukraine

Benjamin Pullen

This Sunday, October 25, Ukrainians will head to the polls in what could be the most consequential elections in Ukrainian history: it will be the first time since decentralization reform that Ukrainians will participate in nation-wide local elections.

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