Special Briefing: Here’s How Else the World Is Changing
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the world will keep turning.
By Daniel Malloy
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What’s happening? As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, it’s also pushing other major news — such as conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East or groundbreaking solutions to scientific dilemmas — out of the headlines. That’s understandable: We’re in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, with New York City forced to set up makeshift hospitals in Central Park to deal with an explosion in cases. But critical events other than the fight against the pandemic will also shape our collective future. In this Special Briefing, OZY scans the world to update you on stories you might have missed — but that are bound to bounce back into the headlines when the coronavirus finally loosens its deadly grip.
Why does it matter? Some of what is being pushed into the background has roots that are decades old. And while the pandemic is shaping our behavior today, these other events and discoveries have the potential to determine what the world will look like tomorrow.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
The other war. Amid the talk of waging war against the coronavirus, let’s not forget the fight that’s sapped American resources for nearly two decades: Afghanistan. The U.S. is desperate to see its peace deal with the Taliban carried through by the local government. But so far, it’s not working too well: Rival Afghan presidents are claiming national authority, leading the Pentagon to cut $1 billion in crucial aid, while the Taliban continues its deadly attacks on security forces. Meanwhile, ISIS attacked a Sikh temple in Kabul last week that left 25 people dead. U.S. troops are still withdrawing from “America’s longest war” — but it will not end anytime soon.
Maximum pressure. As COVID-19 was taking root in China, Washington and Tehran hurtled toward open conflict. Iranian rockets were unleashed on U.S. bases in Iraq following America’s unprecedented killing of a top Iranian commander. Meanwhile, the 2015 nuclear deal appeared all but dead as Tehran flouted its terms one by one. The saber-rattling has since died down, but the central conflict remains as intractable as ever — despite this week’s renewal by the White House of waivers for global firms working with Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Meanwhile, the deal’s European signatories announced the first sale (of medical goods) to the Islamic Republic through a new payment system designed to bypass U.S. sanctions. That, in turn, could kick up U.S. pressure on its European partners.
Clearing the air. While global tensions aren’t quite cooling down, the climate might be. Recent European satellite imagery showed the levels of nitrogen dioxide, a key pollutant, over major cities has plummeted — the result of much of the world’s population being locked indoors. Carbon emissions, which dropped 25 percent in China during the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, are expected to continue dropping. So are we beginning to beat back global warming? It’s not exactly time to celebrate, experts say. The changes probably won’t last after the world economy revs back up. That’s why some argue that now’s the time to apply the lessons learned under lockdown, such as improving governance and personal responsibility, in order to be better positioned for the future.
Major discoveries. Many are already hard at work changing the world for the better. For instance, this week a team of American researchers developed a blood test capable of identifying 50 different types of cancer. In lab tests that proved most effective for the dozen deadliest forms of the disease, they used machine learning to pinpoint the location of tumors with 93 percent accuracy. Last week, meanwhile, German scientists announced they’d discovered a polyurethane-eating microbe that could fuel hopes of fighting plastic pollution in the years to come. So, as experts race to find a vaccine against COVID-19, expect other world-altering scientific breakthroughs too.
WHAT TO READ
Here’s What Iran Could Do to American Forces With Its Own ‘Maximum Pressure’ Campaign, by Sebastien Roblin in The National Interest
“If America wants Iran to change its behavior, it will have to re-establish ruptured lines of communication and re-create genuine incentives for diplomacy.”
What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change, by Meehan Crist in the New York Times
“Personal consumption and travel habits are, in fact, changing, which has some people wondering if this might be the beginning of a meaningful shift.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Kandahar: Taliban Approaches to Peace
“There’s a lot of nervousness in urban areas about what the answers might be: What kind of state structure would the Taliban accept? Would they endorse a democratic system?”
Watch on International Crisis Group on YouTube:
Climate Change Is Still On, No Matter What Happens With Coronavirus
“Those figures are very clear when it comes to this air pollution — but that’s not the same as climate change, I’m afraid.”
Watch on Euronews on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Finding the balance. The world of gender equality also got a recent lift: Last week, Japan Airlines became the country’s first major company to ditch the female dress code, announcing that trousers and flat shoes are now fair game for its nearly 6,000 female flight attendants. It’s a key victory for the #KuToo movement, which has campaigned against strict beauty standards in the Land of the Rising Sun. Given the state of the airline industry, some positive media attention can’t hurt.
- Daniel Malloy