Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

Closing Guantanamo?

Author: Jonathan Masters

President Obama vowed in January 2009 to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Two years later, the White House continues to face challenges to that promise, leaving critics to suggest the facility will remain open for the foreseeable future.

See more in Terrorism; United States; International Law

State Sponsors: Iran

Author: Greg Bruno

The U.S. government designates Iran as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism," which feeds concerns about Iran's growing nuclear program.

See more in State Sponsors of Terrorism; Iran

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

Profile: Ayman al-Zawahiri

Authors: Jayshree Bajoria and Lee Hudson Teslik

Ayman al-Zawahiri, now America's most wanted terrorist, took over as the head of al-Qaeda in June 2011 after the killing of erstwhile head Osama bin Laden.

See more in Terrorism

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