New voices in American foreign policy

Sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation


How American Foreign Policy Inspires Resistance, Insurgency, and Terrorism

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been trying to create a liberal world order—and it's been a bipartisan effort, says Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University. The problem is that pushing democracy onto other nations is a "delusional" pursuit that destabilizes states in already fractured circumstances. Walt uses the cases of Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan to demonstrate why the US needs an intervention on its constant military interventions. A better approach to US foreign policy? Walt suggests leading by example. The best way to spread democracy abroad might be to have a strong democracy at home. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.


Why the Real North Korea Threat Isn't Its Nuclear Weapons

Friendly neighbors and wide oceans. That, in a phrase, is America's fallback security plan. It happens to be a very effective security plan, says Michael Desch, although you wouldn't know it by listening to politicians. Their squawking about threats to America are more the result of what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex and America's history of interventionist foreign policy. Case in point: North Korea. The hermit kingdom's nuclear weapons are a defensive strategy, not an offensive one. Kim Jong-un is a rational actor who wants his family to stay in power, not risk the complete erasure of his country. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

How Rebel Victories Stop Civil Wars While Foreign Intervention Prolongs Them

How do you end a civil war? In the movies, all you really need is for Daniel Day Lewis as Abe Lincoln to make a great speech (or Iron Man and Captain America to shake hands, depending on your definition of "civil war" in movies). But in real life, things are much more complex than that. History argues that letting the rebels win at their own pace often solves much of the problem, says Monica Duffy Toft, whose work at the Center for Strategic Studies is made possible through funding from the Charles Koch Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

The Dangers of Idealism: How America Destabilized the Middle East

For the last 25 years, the U.S. has based its foreign policy on a sense of primacy and idealism rather than restraint and realism, says William Ruger, Vice President for Research and Policy, Charles Koch Foundation. Ruger asserts that the U.S. failed to recognize the human and economic cost of international military and political intervention. "We've really opened up all kinds of challenges in this attempt to open up an exemplar for the Middle East. We actually have created an exemplar," he says, "an exemplar of what can go wrong if you engage in the world without first thinking carefully about what is necessary for American safety, and what the unintended consequences of our behavior could be..." The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

How the World Lost the Fight to Separate Church and State

Religion influences politics more now than it did 50 years ago. To help explain how we moved seemingly backward from global secularism to increased religious involvement in public policy, Professor of International Politics Monica Duffy Toft explains the threefold story of failed modernization, democratization, and globalization, and how they propelled religious figures and ideas into the political arena once again. Monica Duffy Toft's work at the Center for Strategic Studies is made possible through funding from the Charles Koch Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

Does America Really Respect Its Military Men and Women?

Why might America's respect for its military be a mile wide but less than an inch thick? Less than one half of one percent of its population serves, making civilians more cavalier about when and where to deploy its military, says Michael Desch, professor of political science and founding director of the Notre Dame International Security Center. When supporting our troops translates to flyovers at NFL games and skydiving events at NASCAR races, we fail to confront the sacrifice we actually make of the military men and women sent into harm's way. Truly respecting our troops, and having confidence in their ability, means caring more about when and where they're deployed. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

How much of a threat Is Russia to the United States?

There's a lot of talk about Russia's hostility to America, thanks to its apparent interference in the 2016 election. But in the grand scheme of things Russia is small potatoes, explains Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University. America is bigger economically, has far more friends and thus a better world standing, and has a lot more going for it, says Walt. Should the U.S. really be concerned with a country with a GDP some 15 times smaller than its own, with a rapidly aging population and no industry beside oil and gas? Stephen Walt’s weekly column can be found at ForeignPolicy.com. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.


Trade, Diplomacy, Culture: How America Can Lead the World without Its Military

America seems to have forgotten a crucial fact about war: the human toll on both sides. William Ruger, Vice President for Research and Policy, Charles Koch Foundation, asserts that it would be naive to think that there is never an appropriate time for war—WWII demanded it, for example—but America's wars in recent decades appear to lack objectives, or at least objectives that are suitable to the amount of lives, funding, and global upheaval that these wars have cost. The U.S. can engage with the world without the military, says Ruger—spreading democracy is not a divine mission. Instead, let's trade, practice diplomacy, exchange the best of our culture, and most of all be humble on the world stage. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.


What does America do with its $70 billion intelligence budget?

Americans have gotten so used to being surveilled by the intelligence community that they barely register it as an invasion of privacy, says MIT professor Barry Posen. He goes further to say that the kind of data collection used by the government could very easily be used in nefarious ways (should someone nefarious get their hands on it). Another big issue he suggests is the price tag that this surveillance costs American taxpayers. At $70,000,000,000... that so-called "security" might be priced way too high. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

America Is Preventing Nuclear Attacks in All the Wrong Ways

Nuclear weapons are an odd conundrum for the world (and indeed the human species) as of late. Remnants of WW2 and indeed the Cold War, they're mostly used now as a kind of insurance policy for the safety of a country. It's like keeping a loaded gun. And like guns, America (no surprises here) has a whole lot of them and (just like a gun) they don't want anyone they don't like to have them. America is even willing to have preventative wars so that other countries don't develop nuclear weapons; which in turn breeds resentment and even more countries that resent us... who then in turn develop more nukes. It's a vicious cycle. And it may not end well. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org.

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  • U.S. Presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act on numerous occasions.
  • The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
  • The Act has been used mainly to restore order following race and labor riots.

The nationwide protests that were catalyzed by the police killing of George Floyd led to the possibility that President Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act. This piece of legislation would presumably justify the use of the military to quell the demonstrations that on numerous occasions turned violent. The legality and reality of that is still under debate, highlighting a very controversial power of an American President. While the U.S. military is banned from participating in law enforcement activities on its own soil, the Insurrection Act can provide the exceptions.

The Act was signed into law by Thomas Jefferson in 1807, and has a long history of being used to quell race and labor-related riots. The first time the act was modified was in 1861, when in anticipation of the calamity that would follow the Civil War, a section was added allowing the feds to use the National Guard and the army even against the wishes of state governments. The language specified the case of "rebellion against the authority of the government of the United States" as the cause that would justify sending in the troops.

The 1871 amendment to the act was actually meant to protect African-Americans from attacks by the Ku Klux Klan. The new wording stated then that the federal government can invoke the act for the enforcement of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This came into play during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War and in the course of the desegregation incidents that were part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

One important caveat to the use of the act – since 1967 it has only been invoked upon request from the states and not under exclusive authority of the President. The actual wording of the act states its purpose is to address "whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened," call upon military troops. A 1956 provision, however, says the President can use it without state governments in cases where "unlawful obstructions" or "rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws". In the current situation in the U.S., following the George Floyd murder at the hands of the police, the states have not asked Trump for such help.

Discovery of Nat Turner Engraving by William Henry Shelton

Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

One of the early Presidents to invoke the act was Andrew Jackson. He used it to put down the slave rebellion by Nat Turner in 1831 and to settle a labor dispute by workers of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1834.

Ulysses S. Grant relied upon the Insurrection Act several times, for the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina in 1871 and to put down the unrest that started after the contested 1872 Louisiana gubernatorial election.

Rutherford B. Hayes used the Insurrection Act for the troops needed to deal with the Lincoln County War of 1878, the one that famously involved Billy the Kid.

The tensions brought on by the railroad worker Pullman Strike of 1894 and the 1914 mine worker uprising dubbed the "Colorado Coalfield War" forced, respectively, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, to rely on the act to bring back order.

Colorado National Guard troops during the Ludlow strike. 1914.

Credit: Survey Associates, Inc.

In more modern times, the Insurrection Act's re-appearance is tied exclusively to breakdowns in race relations. It was employed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1943 Detroit race riot and by Dwight D. Eisenhower to protect the Little Rock Nine – a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. John F. Kennedy used the act a couple of times, both times to fight segregation. He called upon it during the Ole Miss Riot of 1962 and to enforce desegregation in Alabama's public schools in 1963.

Lyndon B. Johnson was most prolific in engaging the Insurrection Act, resorting to it four times – during the bloody 1967 Detroit riot as well as the 1968 riots in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Baltimore that were precipitated by the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King.

In recent times, President George H. W. Bush was the last one to invoke the act, calling up troops to restore calm in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, prompted by the beating of Rodney King.

National Guardsmen in South Los Angeles, 30 April 1992.

Photo credit: HAL GARB/AFP via Getty Images

  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

  • The feature is called Manage Activity, and it's currently available through mobile and Facebook Lite.
  • Manage Activity lets users sort old content by filters like date and posts involving specific people.
  • Some companies now use AI-powered background checking services that scrape social media profiles for problematic content.

Facebook is rolling out a new feature designed to help users delete old posts in bulk instead of one at a time.

The company announced Tuesday that its "Manage Activity" tool will allow users to delete posts en masse, or archive them so that they're accessible only to the user. Manage Activity will let users organize old content in batches, sorted by filers like specific date range and posts involving certain people.

Manage Activity is available today on mobile and Facebook Lite, and the company says it'll be functional for desktop users in the future.

"Whether you're entering the job market after college or moving on from an old relationship, we know things change in people's lives, and we want to make it easy for you to curate your presence on Facebook to more accurately reflect who you are today," Facebook wrote in a statement. "That's why we're launching Manage Activity to help you archive or trash old posts, all in one place."

Facebook

Why is Facebook releasing the feature now? A company spokesperson told Recode that users and privacy advocates have long requested better control over past posts. Users have had access to the "limit past posts" option, which blocks the public from accessing a user's posts past a certain date. But there has been no way to delete old content in batches.

Social media background checks


Now, the feature could bring users some peace of mind. After all, the platform currently has more than 2.6 billion monthly active users, and some of these users created accounts in their teens, around the time Facebook became widely available in 2006. As these veteran users get older, it seems likely that many would want to delete years-old posts, whether because content is embarrassing, outdated or professionally jeopardizing.

Some employers now use automated or third-party background checks that scrape candidates' social media accounts. These checks can search for content that's racist, sexually explicit, criminal or otherwise offensive.

But they're not always accurate. One AI-powered background service called Checkr has even faced lawsuits from people who claim the company's algorithms made mistakes that cost them job opportunities.

How to use Manage Activity

It's unclear when Manage Activity will become available on desktop. But to learn how to use it on mobile or Facebook Lite, check out this instructional video from Facebook.

  • A new theory takes the direct-collapse theory explaining the creation of supermassive black holes around which galaxies turn ones step further.
  • The advance is made possible by a super-powerful computer, ATERUI II.
  • The new theory is the first that accounts for the likely assortment of heavy elements in early-universe gas clouds.

It seems that pretty much every galaxy we see is spinning around a supermassive black hole. When we say "supermassive," we mean BIG: Each is about 100,000 to tens of billions times the mass of our Sun. Serving as the loci around which our galaxies twirl, they're clearly important to maintaining the universal structures we see. It would be nice to know how they form. We have a pretty good idea how normally-huge-but-not-massive black holes form, but as for the supermassive larger versions, not so much. It's a supermassive missing piece of the universe puzzle.

Now, in research published in Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society, astrophysicists at Tohoku University in Japan reveal that they may have solved the riddle, supported by new computer simulations that show how supermassive black holes come to be.

The direct collapse theories

Glowing gas and dark dust within the Large Magellanic Cloud

Image source: ESA/Hubble and NASA

The favored theory about the birth of supermassive black holes up to now has been the "direct-collapse" theory. The theory proposes a solution to a cosmic riddle: Supermassive black holes seem to have been born a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang, not nearly long enough for the standard normal black hole genesis scenario to have played out, and on such a large scale. There are two versions of the direct-collapse theory.

One version proposes that if enough gas comes together in a supermassive gravitationally bound cloud, it can eventually collapse into a black hole, which, thanks the cosmic background-radiation-free nature of the very early universe, could then quickly pull in enough matter to go supermassive in a relatively short period of time.

According to astrophysicist Shantanu Basu of Western University in London, Ontario, this would only have been possible in the first 800 million years or so of the universe. "The black holes are formed over a duration of only about 150 million years and grow rapidly during this time," Basu told Live Science in the summer of 2019. "The ones that form in the early part of the 150-million-year time window can increase their mass by a factor of 10 thousand." Basu was lead author of research published last summer in Astrophysical Journal Letters that presented computer models showing this version of direct-collapse is possible.

Another version of the theory suggests that the giant gas cloud collapses into a supermassive star first, which then collapses into a black hole, which then — presumably again thanks to the state of the early universe — sucks up enough matter to go supermassive quickly.

There's a problem with either direct-collapse theory, however, beyond its relatively narrow time window. Previous models show it working only with pristine gas clouds comprised of hydrogen and helium. Other, heavier elements — carbon and oxygen, for example — break the models, causing the giant gas cloud to break up into smaller gas clouds that eventually form separate stars, end of story. No supermassive black hole, and not even a supermassive star for the second flavor of the direct-collapse theory.

A new model

ATERUI II

Image source: NAOJ

Japan's National Astronomical Observatory has a supercomputer named "ATERUI II" that was commissioned in 2018. The Tohoku University research team, led by postdoctoral fellow Sunmyon Chon, used ATERUI II to run high-resolution, 3D, long-term simulations to verify a new version of the direct-collapse idea that makes sense even with gas clouds containing heavy elements.

Chon and his team propose that, yes, supermassive gas clouds with heavy elements do break up into smaller gas clouds that wind up forming smaller stars. However, they assert that's not the end of the story.

The scientists say that post-explosion, there remains a tremendous inward pull toward the center of the ex-cloud that drags in all those smaller stars, eventually causing them to grow into a single supermassive star, 10,000 times larger than the Sun. This is a star big enough to produce the supermassive black holes we see when it finally collapses in on itself.

"This is the first time that we have shown the formation of such a large black hole precursor in clouds enriched in heavy-elements," says Chon, adding, "We believe that the giant star thus formed will continue to grow and evolve into a giant black hole."

Modeling the behavior of an expanded number of elements within the cloud while faithfully carrying forward those models through the violent breakup of the cloud and its aftermath requires such high computational overhead that only a computer as advanced as ATERUI II could pull off.

Being able to develop a theory that takes into account, for the first time, the likely complexity of early-universe gas clouds makes the Tohoku University idea the most complete, plausible explanation of the universe's mysterious supermassive black holes. Kazuyuki Omukai, also of Tohoku University says, "Our new model is able to explain the origin of more black holes than the previous studies, and this result leads to a unified understanding of the origin of supermassive black holes."

America is experiencing some of its most widespread civil unrest in years following the death of George Floyd.


Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on 25 May, and his death has underscored the many ways race and ethnic background drives unequal experiences among many Americans.

These charts help illustrate key gaps impacting everything from opportunity to health.

1. Wide educational gaps

In the 70 years since the US Supreme Court ruled racial segregation of public schools unconstitutional, progress in improving racial educational divides has been slow and uneven. Gaps have narrowed by 30-40% when compared to the 1970s, but divides remain large.

Improvement in 9-year-olds' NEAP math test scoresImprovement in 9-year-olds' NEAP math test scores (Image: Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis)

2. Limited access to improved earnings, mobility

For people of colour in America, education does not provide the same economic return as it might for other groups. People of colour, particularly women of colour, typically have lower salaries than white and male workers with similar levels of education.

Hourly wages. Even with similar educational levels, wen of colour are still earning less. (Image: Equitable Growth)

Income inequality is also stifling intergenerational mobility – the American Dream of children having a higher standard of living than their parents. Research from economist Raj Chetty in 2016 showed that at age 30 people born in 1940 had around a 90% chance of out-earning their parents. But for people born in 1980 this chance had fallen to half.

3. Outsized unemployment burdens

A lack of access to higher education or skilled work can make people of colour more vulnerable to unemployment during downturns and periods of economic growth. As researchers explained in one report from The Russell Sage Foundation and The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality: "An African American cannot count on education as providing the same relief against the risk of unemployment that it provides to other groups."

Unemployment Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 1975–2011

Unemployment Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 1975–2011. (Image: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from The Russell Sage Foundation and The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality)

4. Health care insurance and life expectancy dynamics

Life expectancy gaps between white Americans and people of colour have begun to narrow, but inequities still exist thanks to a range of socio-economic factors such as income inequality, access to health insurance and adequate health care.

The disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on black Americans demonstrates some of the vulnerabilities the population faces.

Life expectancy.

5. Black imprisonment in the US is falling but remains disproportionate

The imprisonment rate among black Americans has fallen by over a third since 2006, and stands at around 1,500 prisoners for every 100,000 adults. But black Americans remain far more likely to be in prison than Hispanic and white Americans. The figures are particularly stark among some age groups: in the 35-39 age bracket about 1 in 20 black men were in state or federal prison in 2018.

Imprisonment Rates

Imprisonment Rates. (Image: Pew Research)

Black Americans made up a third of the sentenced prison population in 2018 – nearly triple their representation in the US adult population as a whole. They also make up a disproportionate number of fatal police shootings.

Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.