Gun Policy, China and Taiwan, Russian Propaganda: RAND Weekly Recap

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May 27, 2022

This week, we discuss gun policy in America; what might happen if China “quarantined” Taiwan; the future of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan; engaging youth with public policy; Russia's “firehose of falsehood” propaganda model; and the Internet of Bodies.

RAND Gun Policy in America logo

Image by Chara Williams/RAND Corporation

Informing the Gun Policy Debate

On Tuesday, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The massacre, the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, occurred just days after a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, left 10 people dead.

What could be done to reduce America's unacceptably high rates of gun violence? RAND's long-running Gun Policy in America initiative offers insights into this question. The initiative seeks to establish a shared set of facts that will improve public discussions and support the development of fair and effective gun policies.

Production line at Eminent Luggage Corp. in Taiwan and a <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ym_People_at_Keelung.jpg">ship at Keelung</a>, Taiwan, photos by Pichi Chuang/Reuters and pete/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC by 2.0</a>

Production line at Taiwan's Eminent Luggage Corporation, and a ship in Keelung, Taiwan

Photos by Pichi Chuang/Reuters and pete/CC by 2.0

What Would Happen If China 'Quarantines' Taiwan?

Attention has been on Taiwan this week as President Joe Biden wrapped up his first trip to Asia since taking office. A new RAND report examines what might happen if China took further coercive actions against Taiwan. Specifically, the authors consider how China might enact a “coercive quarantine” of Taiwan—isolating the island to cut off imports and exports—and how the United States could respond. Notably, they say that a quarantine of Taiwan would likely escalate rapidly and lead to use of force.

A Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund hosted reception for a group of ambassadors to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on October 1, 2021, photo by EyePress via Reuters

Mullah Baradar Akhund, a Taliban leader, hosted a reception for a group of ambassadors to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on October 1, 2021

Photo by EyePress via Reuters

The Next Phase of U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan

With Afghanistan now in the grip of both Taliban control and a growing humanitarian crisis, what policy should the United States pursue in the country? The authors of a new RAND paper break down three approaches: engaging with the Taliban, isolating the regime, or opposing the Taliban by seeking to remove them from power. They conclude that engagement with the Taliban offers the only prospect of advancing U.S. interests in Afghanistan, namely counterterrorism and humanitarian relief.

A group of middle school friends gather around the laptop at the school library, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Engaging Youth with Public Policy: A Tool for Educators

Supporting civic education is one way to counter the spread of Truth Decay and help restore the role of facts in the United States. With this in mind, RAND researchers developed a series of lesson plans to help teach middle school students about public policy. The lessons cover how public policy relates to kids' lives, why it's important to learn about policy issues from credible sources, and how young people can be more critical consumers and creators of information.

A still from a powerful animated video created by RAND artists-in-residence Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, known as V+J, to show how Russian propaganda spreads—and how it can influence its audience by entertaining, confusing, and overwhelming them.

RAND artists-in-residence Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, known as V+J, used their signature “Matchstick People” in an animation that shows how Russian propaganda spreads and can take hold of and audience

Russia's 'Firehose of Falsehood'

Russian propaganda has been on full display during the war in Ukraine. RAND researchers have called Moscow's approach “the firehose of falsehood” because of two key features: high numbers of channels and messages, and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the final piece for the RAND Art + Data program, artist duo Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre created an eye-popping animation that shows how Russian propaganda is disseminated, how its spreads, and how it can influence an audience by confusing and overwhelming them.

Classic proportion man in the form of a starry sky or space, consisting of point, line, photo by Adobe Stock/anttoniart

Image by anttoniart/Adobe Stock

Get Ready for the Internet of Bodies

Wearable devices that measure your heart rate and body temperature. Electronic pills that take stock of your nutrient needs. Sensors in public spaces that detect the spread of disease. Internet of Bodies devices have the potential to revolutionize medical care and transform daily life as we know it. In a recent TEDx talk, RAND mathematician Mary Lee discusses what the future could look like—and what risks need to be addressed before that future arrives.

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