Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance

Author: Beina Xu

The U.S.-Japan alliance has been the cornerstone of Washington's security policy in East Asia, but rising threats from China, North Korea, and economic recovery in both countries have raised questions about the future of the rapport.

See more in Japan; Defense and Security

Author: Steven J. Markovich

U.S. space exploration inspired a generation of students and innovators, but NASA's role has diminished, and the number of global space competitors is growing. This Backgrounder explores U.S. competitiveness in space.

See more in United States; Space

Author: Steven J. Markovich

Postsecondary education has significant public and private benefits, but debate continues over the extent of federal student lending.

See more in United States; Education


Author: Zachary Laub

Sarin, one of the world's most lethal chemical weapons, has long been stockpiled but is rarely used by states or terrorists. Allegations of attacks on civilians in Syria, if substantiated, would represent a departure from long-standing international practice.

See more in Weapons of Mass Destruction; Syria

Human Rights in Iran

Authors: Jayshree Bajoria and Robert McMahon

Global monitors say Iran's human rights situation is poor and unlikely to improve amid a climate of political uncertainty and growing external pressures. But activists urge continued international scrutiny of Iran's violations.

See more in Iran; Human Rights