Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

Nuclear Power Safety Concerns

Author: Toni Johnson

Damage to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has reignited debate over the safety of nuclear power and highlighted questions over aging power plants, safety procedures, and waste disposal.

See more in Japan; Disasters

Global Action on Non-Communicable Diseases

Author: Toni Johnson

NCDs such as cancer and heart disease are becoming leading causes of death in the developing world and will be the focus of a September UN meeting. But health experts and others are divided about how much funding should go into a global campaign aimed at preventing NCDs and whether infectious disease programs will suffer as a result.

See more in Diseases, Noncommunicable; Global

Author: Toni Johnson

A decade after 9/11, U.S. Muslims grapple with their place in American society in the face of concerns about homegrown terrorism and questions by non-Muslims over the threat they might pose.

See more in Religion; United States

Global Natural Gas Potential

Author: Toni Johnson

Interest in natural gas is growing for political, environmental, and economic reasons. But the industry faces challenges to adding pipelines, increasing international LNG trade, and exploiting newly found shale gas reserves.

See more in Natural Gas; Global

The Debate Over Generic-Drug Trade

Author: Toni Johnson

The global drug industry has fought to prevent developing nations from making low-cost, generic versions of drugs under patent, but the demand for such alternatives is could rise with increasing healthcare costs and growing incidence of chronic disease.

See more in Drug Trafficking and Control; United States

Food Price Volatility and Insecurity

Author: Toni Johnson

Global food prices are being driven up by a number of factors including bad weather, low stocks, and unstable commodities markets. Combating price volatility and protecting food security will take increased agriculture production and better food distribution, experts say.

See more in Food Security; Global

Confronting the Cyber Threat

Author: Jonathan Masters

Foreign governments, non-state actors, and criminal networks are targeting the digital networks of the United States with increasing frequency and sophistication. U.S. cybersecurity has made progress, but relies heavily on the private sector to secure infrastructure critical to national security.

See more in United States; Cybersecurity; Infrastructure

Renewing America

Renewing America

Oil Market Volatility

Author: Toni Johnson

Though shifts in demand and reduced production by some major producers have influenced oil prices, investor behavior is also increasing market volatility.

See more in Oil; Global

Islam and Politics in Pakistan

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

Pakistan is bracing for more turbulence in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing. This Backgrounder looks at how state support for Islamist militants has led to growing religious intolerance in society.

See more in Pakistan; Religion

Author: Toni Johnson

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill spotlights the growth of deepwater drilling and the challenges of balancing strong environmental regulation with efforts to expand U.S. domestic oil production.

See more in United States; Oil

The Debate Over Airport Security

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

New screening measures at U.S. airports are being called overly intrusive by some passengers and civil rights groups. National security experts advise using a system that relies more on intelligence, behavioral profiling, and empowering passengers.

See more in United States; Border and Port Security