Nuclear Deterrence, COVID-19 and Infant Deaths, Criminal Justice Reform: RAND Weekly Recap

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October 22, 2021

This week, we discuss what the United States can do to counter the potential threat of new Chinese missiles; the pandemic and rising infant deaths in Nigeria; COVID-19 era lessons for criminal justice reform; how investments in data could help prevent veteran suicide; protecting older adults from financial scams; and the emerging American mindset on China.

Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles in a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, October 1, 2019, photo by Jason Lee/Reuters

Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles in a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, October 1, 2019

Photo by Jason Lee/Reuters

The U.S. Doesn't Need More Nukes

The discovery of what appear to be hundreds of new missile silos under construction in China has led some to raise the possibility that the United States may need more nuclear weapons. But according to RAND's Edward Geist, America's current arsenal was designed to guarantee deterrence—even in the case of surprises such as this one.

Although much remains unknown about the Chinese silos, Beijing's specific objective for building them may not even matter, Geist says. The nuclear weapons that the United States already has should be enough to counter the threat—even if every Chinese silo were to contain the largest missile it can hold, fitted with the maximum number of nuclear warheads. Washington has plenty of nonnuclear options, too. Conventional weapons and sensors, for example, could provide a more credible deterrent than building more nuclear weapons.

An African American baby's feet, photo by Ursula Page/Adobe Stock

Photo by Ursula Page/Adobe Stock

Did the Pandemic Lead to an Increase in Infant Deaths?

Early infant deaths in four states in Nigeria increased significantly during the pandemic. A new RAND study finds that stillbirths rose by 22 percent and infant deaths increased by 23 percent. This could mean that the mortality effects of COVID-19 have been vastly underestimated, particularly in poorer countries with weak health systems. To address this, the authors recommend stepping up support for frontline health care facilities and workers, and providing more support to households with pregnant women.

Illustration of coronavirus cell with spike proteins replaced with gavels, and four areas of criminal justice represented: Police, courts, corrections, and supervision

Illustrations by Meriel Waissman; background graphic by Adobe Stock; design by Pete Soriano/RAND Corporation

Criminal Justice Reform: Lessons from the Pandemic

COVID-19 forced the criminal justice system to adapt in unprecedented ways. Many of these changes, such as scaling back low-level arrests and releasing people who were serving minor sentences, also aligned with growing demands for reform. So how might pandemic-era shifts reshape the criminal justice system in the long run? To find out, RAND convened workshops with police chiefs, prison officials, judges, parole officers, and other experts. Their insights helped identify key questions for the future.

Veteran Jane DeGreef put up a display along Wilkshire Circle SW in North Canton, Ohio, to raise awareness of veteran suicide, September 17, 2021, photo by Julie Vennitti Botos/USA Today via Reuters

Veteran Jane DeGreef put up a display in North Canton, Ohio, to help raise awareness of veteran suicide, September 17, 2021

Photo by Julie Vennitti Botos/USA Today via Reuters

To Prevent Veteran Suicide, 'Data is Foundational'

Last month, RAND's Rajeev Ramchand testified before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee to discuss how investments in data could help prevent veteran suicide. He highlighted four key areas: improving the national mortality data infrastructure, better understanding veterans' experiences outside of the VA health system, the need for more timely data on how veterans store firearms, and information about new treatments that could reduce suicide risk.

Black family with older parents looking at financial records, photo by Alina555/Getty Images

Photo by Alina555/Getty Images

Three Ways to Protect the Elderly from Financial Scams

Older adults are more vulnerable to financial exploitation. They may be more trusting, less aware of fraud, or suffering from cognitive impairment. Older people are also more likely to have money, making them valuable targets for fraudsters. What can be done to better protect this vulnerable group from scams? RAND experts offer a few policy solutions.

A journalist sits next to a screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering a speech via video for the opening ceremony of the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), at a media centre in Beijing, China September 4, 2020, photo by Tingshu Wang/Reuters

A journalist sits next to a screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering a speech, Beijing, September 4, 2020

Photo by Tingshu Wang/Reuters

Is U.S. Policy Too Hostile to China?

This week, Foreign Affairs asked a group of experts, including RAND's Michael Mazarr, about U.S. policy toward China. While Mazarr describes the official U.S. position as “superbly calibrated,” he's concerned about potential fallout from remarks by American politicians, pundits, and reporters that describe the rivalry with China in apocalyptic terms. Widespread anti-Chinese sentiment from such sources could “overwhelm the efforts of a more nuanced and thoughtful official stance to prevent disaster,” he says.

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