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Cryptocurrency, Russian Social Media, Congestion Pricing: RAND Weekly Recap

March 29, 2019

This week, we discuss whether terrorists might use cryptocurrencies; how to stop Russian social media influence; insights on congestion pricing; the best way for the Air Force to maintain its pilot roster; how to measure social and emotional learning; and the cost of making California hospitals more resistant to earthquakes.

Mock Bitcoins are displayed in Berlin, January 7, 2014, photo by Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters

Photo by Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters

Could Terrorists Use Cryptocurrency?

Efforts to deny terrorists access to money have been successful. But what if extremists evade authorities by shifting to digital cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin? This doesn't seem to be happening yet, but new RAND research suggests that second-generation cryptos could spur increased usage. Regulation, oversight, and international cooperation could help prevent this.

Countering Russian Social Media

A central fact has been somewhat absent in conversations about the submission of special counsel Robert Mueller's report: As part of an ongoing campaign to erode trust in democracy, Russia used social media to influence American voters in 2016. Even today, citizens are exposed to Moscow's disinformation daily, says RAND's Elizabeth Bodine-Baron. Unfortunately, the problem with the current strategy to address this threat is that “there is no overarching strategy.”

Seattle viaduct and waterfront at rush hour as commuters leave the city, Seattle, Washington, March 29, 2013

Commuters leave Seattle, another U.S. city considering congestion pricing, during rush hour, March 29, 2013

Photo by 400tmax/Getty Images

Want to Reduce Congestion? Use Tolls

Lawmakers are planning to implement congestion pricing in Manhattan. This would make New York the first U.S. city to charge tolls during peak hours. According to RAND's Charlene Rohr, there's a lot to like about this approach. First, congestion pricing works. Second, reductions in congestion last over time. And finally, tolls can help everyone—not just wealthier people—especially if revenues go toward things like improved public transportation.

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing's 4th Fighter Squadron participating in Red Flag 19-1 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, January 31, 2019, photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing's 4th Fighter Squadron participating in Red Flag 19-1 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, January 31, 2019

Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force

Retain Pilots or Train New Ones?

What's the best way for the U.S. Air Force to maintain its pilot roster? RAND experts examined whether increasing pay bonuses to retain current pilots is more efficient than recruiting new ones. They found that training new aviators is quite expensive. For example, it costs nearly $11 million to train an F-22 pilot. Boosting bonuses to increase retention is more cost-effective.

Students building something together with tiles, photo by FatCamera/Getty Images

Photo by FatCamera/Getty Images

How Do You Measure Social and Emotional Learning?

In the education world, it's often said that what gets assessed gets addressed. In other words, if students or schools are evaluated on something, then it's more likely to become a focus of instruction. Many educators seem to think that social and emotional learning should be addressed. But they have questions about how to best assess these skills. Two newly developed tools can help.

Engineers are using this specially constructed five-story building to study how high-value buildings, such as hospitals and data centers, can remain operational after an earthquake, in San Diego, California, April 17, 2012, photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Engineers study a specially constructed five-story building to determine how high-value structures can endure an earthquake, San Diego, California, April 17, 2012

Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Seismic Safety Upgrades for Hospitals

California hospitals would need to invest between $34 billion and $143 billion statewide to meet 2030 seismic safety standards. That's according to a new RAND report. State law holds hospitals responsible for the entire cost of upgrades that could help them stay open after an earthquake. With more than a third of these hospitals already facing financial distress, this requirement poses a challenge.

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