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Election Interference on Twitter, Insulin Prices, Remote Learning: RAND Weekly Recap

October 9, 2020

We discuss online tactics used to divide Americans during election season; how much higher insulin prices are in the United States than in other countries; the history of America's unemployment system and Black workers; what parents can do to keep kids' learning on track amid the pandemic; which African countries are at risk of importing COVID-19; and countering Russian tactics in the Black Sea region.

Overlapping silhouettes of mobile phone users, illustration by smartboy10/Getty Images

Illustration by smartboy10/Getty Images

Election Interference on Twitter

Throughout the 2020 campaign, many communities on Twitter have engaged in heated political arguments. A new RAND report takes a close look at these online clashes. After examining more than 2.2 million tweets, the authors found convincing evidence of a coordinated effort, likely foreign, to influence the U.S. presidential election.

The study, the second in a series on foreign election interference, examines two kinds of suspicious accounts: trolls (fake personas that spread hyperpartisan themes) and superconnectors (accounts that spread messages quickly and effectively). Their activity may have worked in favor of President Trump, and against former Vice President Joe Biden. But notably, these accounts targeted both liberal and conservative Twitter audiences, with the goal of dividing Americans. The origin of the accounts cannot be identified definitively, but these tactics serve Russian interests and match the Kremlin's election interference playbook.

Vial of insulin with a syringe, photo by Bernard Chantal/Getty Images

Photo by Bernard Chantal/Getty Images

U.S. Insulin Prices Are Five to Ten Times Higher Than in Other Countries

In the United States, the average price per unit across all types of insulin is $98.70—a dramatically greater number than in other high-income nations. That's according to a new RAND study. America's insulin prices ranged from 3.8 times higher than those in Chile to nearly 28 times higher than those in Turkey. U.S. prices were also significantly higher than those in Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This analysis provides the best evidence to date about how much more Americans are paying for this life-saving treatment.

A man speaks with a library worker after receiving an unemployment form in Hialeah, Florida, April 8, 2020, photo by Marco Bello/Reuters

A man speaks with a library worker after receiving an unemployment form in Hialeah, Florida, April 8, 2020

Photo by Marco Bello/Reuters

Unemployment's History with Black Workers

Why doesn't unemployment insurance treat all workers and all earnings the same? Because it wasn't designed to, says RAND's Kathryn Edwards. When the program was created as part of the Social Security Act in 1935, certain occupations, such as domestic and agricultural workers, were excluded. At the time, this meant that about 65 percent of Black workers were ineligible, compared with 27 percent of white workers. Congress “didn't miss the mark on racial equality,” says Edwards. “They weren't aiming for it.”

Young child sitting in front of a tablet computer writing in a notebook, photo by Sushiman/Getty Images

Photo by Sushiman/Getty Images

Worried About Remote Learning? Here's How Parents Can Help

RAND education expert Julia Kaufman is one of the millions of Americans whose children are learning remotely this year. Findings from her recent research suggest that this shift to online education has high stakes: Many students won't receive the curriculum they need to master or even be exposed to the academic standards they're expected to meet. But there are steps that parents can take to help keep their kids on track.

Airplane about to land on a runway in Cape Town, South Africa, photo by brazzo/Getty Images

Photo by brazzo/Getty Images

Which African Countries Are Most at Risk of Importing COVID-19?

African countries that host U.S. forces typically have low levels of international air travel and thus are less likely to import COVID-19. The near-term driver of COVID-19 risk in Africa is the flow of travelers from Western Europe to the continent's anchors of stability, such as Morocco, South Africa, and Kenya. That's according to a new RAND report, part of a series that analyzes COVID-19 cases and air travel data. This finding reverses the traditional view that epidemiological threats flow from Africa into the developed world.

The USS Carney, a missile-guided destroyer, approaches the Bosphorus Strait on its journey to transit out of the Black Sea, photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Weston Jones/U.S. Navy

The USS Carney, a missile-guided destroyer, approaches the Bosphorus Strait on its way out of the Black Sea

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Weston Jones/U.S. Navy

Countering Russia in the Black Sea Region

Volatility has defined the Black Sea region for decades. (Look no further than recent escalation of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.) This area is central to the competition between Russia and the West for the future of Europe. A new RAND report lays out the key issues concerning Black Sea security. In particular, the authors examine Russia's malign influence and aggression in the region—and outline a potential Western strategy to counter it.

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