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Russian Subversion, Truth Decay, Supervised Drug Consumption Sites: RAND Weekly Recap

February 28, 2020

This week, we discuss Russia's subversive activities; how the media can help fight Truth Decay; supervised drug consumption sites; new ideas about artificial intelligence and national security; how supportive housing can help keep people with mental illness out of jail; and what it might take to implement a peace deal in Afghanistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony for newly appointed foreign ambassadors to Russia, in Moscow, Russia, February 5, 2020, photo by Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in Moscow to recognize newly appointed foreign ambassadors to Russia, February 5, 2020

Photo by Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via Reuters

Responding to Russian Subversion

Since 2014, Russia has undertaken a wide range of subversive activities intended to influence the domestic politics of the United States and its partners and allies. This includes Russia's reported attempts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election, which made headlines this week. A new RAND paper examines how and why Moscow engages in such subversive activities, how Russian subversion changes based on its target audience, and ways that Washington could respond.

Panelists discuss how media organizations can help address "Truth Decay," the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life, at the RAND Corporation office in Santa Monica, CA, February 25, 2020, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Panelists discussed media organizations' efforts to learn new forms of storytelling and to improve their use of data in reporting the news

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

How the Media Can Fight Truth Decay

Truth Decay is the diminishing role of facts and analysis in U.S. public life. The media plays a dual role in this phenomenon: News organizations can combat Truth Decay by promoting facts and analysis. But they can also intensify the problem. A recent event at our headquarters in Santa Monica brought together RAND leaders and media experts to discuss this topic. The key question: What role might the media play in helping restore faith in facts?

Kits of supplies containing syringes, bandaids, and antiseptic pads in a safe injection site called Quai 9 near Geneva main train station, Switzerland, October 14, 2010

Kits containing syringes and antiseptic pads at a safe injection site in Geneva, Switzerland, October 14, 2010

Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Considering Supervised Drug Consumption Sites

The first supervised drug consumption site in the United States will open in Philadelphia next week. Such locations, also called safe injection sites, allow people who use heroin and other drugs to do so under medical supervision. RAND research suggests that innovative approaches like this could be one way to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths. But there is a wide range of issues for policymakers to consider when implementing them.

Robot hand touching CGI lightbulb, photo by PhonlamaiPhoto/Getty Images

Photo by PhonlamaiPhoto/Getty Images

Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Last summer, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence asked to hear original, creative ideas about how the United States would maintain global leadership in a future enabled by artificial intelligence. RAND researchers stepped up to the challenge. Their responses address how AI might affect the nature of war, the threat of mass social manipulation, how to recruit cyber and AI talent, and much more.

Tanya Beverly is part of a program that diverts people with mental illness out of the county jail and into supportive housing, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Tanya Beverly is part of a program that diverts people with mental illness out of Los Angeles County jails and into supportive housing

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Supportive Housing Can Help Keep People with Mental Illness Out of Jail

Hundreds of thousands of people with serious mental illnesses cycle in and out of American jails every year. By any number of measures—costs, health outcomes, recidivism rates—this system is a failure. A recent RAND study explored one alternative: moving these individuals into supportive housing or community treatment programs. The findings show that, in Los Angeles County jails alone, more than 3,300 people could be better served by receiving treatment elsewhere.

U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army base in Logar province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018, photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army base in Logar Province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018

Photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

Implementing an Afghan Peace Deal

If the Afghan government and the Taliban reach a peace deal, implementing it will take years. Both parties will have to show more ingenuity and flexibility than ever before, says RAND's James Dobbins. And for its part, the United States must avoid mistakes it has made in the face of past “postwar” security challenges in the region. Insurgent wars are endurance tests, says Dobbins. But so are the negotiations that sometimes succeed in ending them.

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