This week, we discuss job opportunities for Syrian refugees; a former U.S. intelligence officer charged with spying for Iran; national efforts to reduce the risk of terrorism; how Russia's foreign policy decisions affect its economy; the complex cases of jihadi brides; and the unintended consequences of countering opioids.
A chemist working as a mechanic. A firefighter tailoring clothes. An IT specialist doing odd jobs. Many Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey are finding ways to get by, but they aren't working in their chosen fields. This is a missed opportunity for everyone, say RAND experts. Taking advantage of refugees' skills can increase economic opportunities for host countries—even as it improves the lives of Syrian families.
Last week, Monica Witt, a former U.S. intelligence officer, was charged with spying, allegedly sharing dossiers about her colleagues with Iranian hackers. How big a catch would Witt be for Iranian intelligence? And more broadly, what does this say about Tehran's cyber ambitions? RAND's Heather Williams, who served on the National Intelligence Council, recently sat down with NPR to answer these questions and more.
National capabilities for terrorism prevention are relatively limited, according to new research. Most rely on local or non-government efforts, and only a subset receive federal support. To address gaps in capability, the most effective path for the federal government would be to strengthen, broaden, and sustain this local and nongovernmental capacity.
Prosecuting war in eastern Ukraine. Propping up Assad in Syria. And now, flying nuclear bombers in Venezuela. Moscow's great-power quest has taken an economic toll on Russia, say RAND experts. If the Kremlin really wants to gain influence in the international forums that matter, it should consider prioritizing its economic interests and backing away from “economy-destroying dictators.”
Women who married ISIS militants were in the headlines this week after making public appeals to return home to Western countries. Two of them, British-born Shamima Begum and American-born Hoda Muthana, were barred from coming back. RAND's Antonia Ward weighed in last year on the complex issues surrounding returning “jihadi brides.” The role of women in ISIS is unclear, she says. That means they may need to be assessed differently than their male counterparts.
The pain medicine OxyContin was reformulated in 2010 to make it more difficult to crush or dissolve. But this had unintended consequences, including a rise in hepatitis C infections as drug abusers switched from taking OxyContin to injecting heroin. RAND's David Powell says this is evidence of a pivotal turn in the opioid crisis. It could lead to rising rates of other infectious diseases tied to injection drug use, such as HIV.
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