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When tensions among nations are at their height, connections among scientists can be a powerful avenue for maintaining ties and backdoor diplomacy. It worked during the Cold War, when scientists in Washington and Moscow joined together to advocate for a nuclear arms control agreement. The Obama administration is renewing the emphasis on "science diplomacy," in the hopes of building bridges in unfriendly territory and as a way to strengthen ties with allies.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act in a rare bi-partisan effort. The bill is meant to speed the development of lifesaving treatments, but critics warn it may also allow ineffective or even harmful drugs onto the market.