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eyes on the U.S.

Future

Some Historical Context On The Current Silicon Valley Implosion

Tech billionaires such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have lost far more money this year than ever before. Eccentric behavior and questionable decisions have both played a role. But there are examples in U.S. business history that have other clues.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — Life isn’t always fair, especially when it comes to business. Although he had already registered dozens of patents, during the global economic crisis of the 1930s, tireless inventor Nikola Tesla found himself struggling to put food on the table. Sure, investors today associate his name with runaway wealth and business achievements rather than poverty and failure: Tesla, the company that was named after him, has made Elon Musk the richest man in the world.

Bloomberg estimates the 51-year-old’s current fortune to be $185 billion. While Musk is not a brilliant inventor like Nikola Tesla, many see him as the most successful businessperson of our century.

And yet, over the past month, many are beginning to wonder if Musk is in trouble, if he has spread himself too thin. Most obvious is his messy and expensive takeover of Twitter, which includes polarizing antics and a clear lack of a strategy.

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Eyes On U.S. — Thanksgiving Gone Global, Black Friday Bad Influence

PARIS — The city of lights is littered with advertisements for “Black Friday” deals. Of course, virtually none of the city’s residents will celebrate Thanksgiving — and few probably even know that the traditional Friday shopping day is linked to the uniquely American (always-on-Thursday) holiday.

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Eyes On U.S. — Something Broken In The Kingdom Of American Tech

PARIS — There’s a dual story about the U.S. tech scene circulating in the world’s media. The first is structural, about trendlines and economics as Silicon Valley’s all-powerful platforms and companies have seen their stocks tanking and announced large layoffs for the first time ever. The second storyline is about the big tech titans themselves.

No surprises, Twitter is still taking up extraordinary amounts of headline real estate. And it’s impossible to disentangle Twitter the company from its Very-Online new owner, as Elon Musk’s barrage of changes continue to cross new red-lines that could wind up threatening the viability of the company itself.

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Eyes On U.S. — No 'Vague Rouge,' No Final Results: How The World Makes Sense Of Midterms

While some breathed sighs of relief that the Republicans' predicted "red wave" sweep didn't happen, others chuckle at how long it takes to count the votes. And then there's Senõr Musk...

PARIS — Three full days later, and there's still no real clarity on the U.S. midterms — but the world has gotten used to American elections dragging out for days or even weeks, for both political and technical reasons.

One French journalist wondered if there’s a simpler way.

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eyes on the U.S.
*Spenser Mestel

From Florida, The World's Most Secure Voting Machine (For Now)

After 19 years of work, Juan Gilbert says he has invented an "unhackable" voting machine. Ahead of Tuesday's U.S. midterms, some hardware hope for the future of free elections.

In late 2020, a large box arrived at Juan Gilbert’s office at the University of Florida. The computer science professor had been looking for this kind of product for months. Previous orders had yielded poor results. This time, though, he was optimistic.

Gilbert drove the package home. Inside was a transparent box, built by a French company and equipped with a 27-inch touchscreen. Almost immediately, Gilbert began modifying it. He put a printer inside and connected the device to Prime III, the voting system he has been building since the first term of the George W. Bush administration.

After 19 years of building, tinkering, and testing, he told Undark this spring, he had finally invented “the most secure voting technology ever created.

”Gilbert didn’t just want to publish a paper outlining his findings. He wanted the election security community to recognize what he’d accomplished — to acknowledge that this was, in fact, a breakthrough. In the spring of 2022, he emailed several of the most respected and vocal critics of voting technology, including Andrew Appel, a computer scientist at Princeton University. He issued a simple challenge: Hack my machine.

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eyes on the U.S.
Alex Hurst

Eyes On U.S. — How The World Is Tracking A High-Stakes Midterm Election

The international media is tuning in closely to Tuesday’s U.S. midterms, with global ramifications for everything from the war in Ukraine to action on climate change to the brewing superpower showdown with China.

PARIS — It’s becoming a bi-annual November ritual: International reporters touch down in some small American town or so-called “battleground state” that we’re told could decide the fate of the next two or four (or more) years in the United States — and the world.

Reporting for French daily Le Monde, Piotr Smolar was in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, where “culture wars” were infecting the schools ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections. Meanwhile, Smolar's French broadcast colleagues at France Info were in the ever crucial state of Florida, talking to locals at the grocery store about the economy.

“The prices are crazy. I’m a veteran, I spent 16 years in the army and this is what I get when I come home,” said a man named Jake in the city of Melbourne, Florida. “We’re counting every penny. It’s Biden’s recovery plan that put us in this situation.”

Yes, it will likely be local issues that determine the results of the midterm elections, where Republicans have a strong chance of taking back control of Congress and deal a potentially fatal blow to some of President Joe Biden’s signature policy objectives.

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Society
Azahara Palomeque

Real Fear, Fake Politics: How U.S. Gun Culture Looks To A Foreigner Living There

U.S. politics around gun control can be confusing to Americans but outright bewildering to foreigners living there. For Azahara Palomeque, a Spaniard who just left the U.S. after 12 years, the country is governed by a "necropolitics" that doesn't value life.

-Essay-

MADRID — On the day of the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old boy gunned down 19 children and two of their teachers, I was at the Philadelphia airport, ready to leave the country that had been my home for more than 12 years. As I read the news from the boarding gate, I murmured "again, another f*cking time the same thing."

I prayed that the plane would take off as soon as possible and that the journey would make me forget not only that massacre but all the deaths that happen gratuitously in the United States on a daily basis, preventable were it not for the greed of its politicians, almost all sold to the big lobbies that finance their careers.

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Future

Polish Hideout? Zambian Shave? Translating The "Meta" Meanings Of Facebook’s New Name

The embattled U.S. tech giant has unveiled a new name for its holding company: Meta. It will do little to soften the rising criticism of Facebook's practices. Indeed, across the world's many languages, we find the new name translates into all kinds of good content.

Mark Zuckerberg's unveiling of the new name for his company was a global event. And the choice has an international (ancient) ring: Meta, a word that tends to be used today to mean self-referencing, though the Greek prefix μετα refers to "after" or "beyond." Yes, another sign of the limitlessness of Zuck's ambitions.


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eyes on the U.S.
Clemens Wergin

The Promise And Illusion Of Biden's Visit To Europe

The U.S. president is taking a leadership role among western democracies that was sorely missed. But these complicated times also call for a Europe that does more than just cheer from the sidelines.

-OpEd-

Joe Biden's visit to Europe, which began in the United Kingdom and takes him next to Brussels and Geneva, is about "demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age."

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CLARIN
Marcelo Cantelmi

Raul Castro's Exit, Biden's Arrival And The Future Of Venezuela

With Trump now out of the picture, Cuba and Venezuela — both in economic shambles — are once more toying with piecemeal liberalization, Clarín's international affairs chief explains.

-Analysis-

Power and authority are not necessarily synonymous. Force is not authority, and can even indicate weakness. The philosopher Max Weber observed that dominance is only legitimate when people recognize and accept authority. In some democracies, rulers have compensated the fading of legitimacy with higher doses of authoritarianism. The pandemic has exacerbated this distortion.

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eyes on the U.S.
Juan Manuel Ospina

To Fix The Border, Biden Needs To Look Beyond It

Rather than ratchet up spending on America's already bloated military, the U.S. president should take a broader view of national security and help develop economies elsewhere.

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — Can imperialism appear humanitarian? The short answer, as the United States has demonstrated time and again, starting in the period after World War I, is yes.

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eyes on the U.S.
Tamra Burns Loeb, AJ Adkins-Jackson and Arleen F. Brown,

The Tech Divide Is Shutting Minorities Off From Vaccines

Racial and ethnic minority communities that lack internet access have been left behind in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The average monthly cost of internet access, about US$70, can be out of reach for those who can barely afford groceries.

Reporters and scholars have written about the effects of lack of internet access in rural areas in the U.S. and developing countries, but they have paid less attention to the harm of lack of internet access in racial and ethnic minority communities in major cities.

We are researchers who study health disparities. We are concerned that even when vaccinations are offered in these communities, those at greatest risk of COVID-19 may be unable to obtain appointments without the help of family or friends. This includes racial and ethnic minority communities and older adults, the age group that is currently being vaccinated.

In 2018, more than one in four Medicare beneficiaries had no digital access at home.

Our research suggests that a lack of internet access may be an important reason. And for the almost 13.8 million older adults in the U.S. who live alone, asking for help may not be an option.

The computer as COVID-19 connector

During the pandemic, the internet has been an indispensable health tool for millions.

Telehealth services, where health care services are delivered to patients and providers separated by a distance, have provided a safe way for patients to make appointments for COVID-19 testing and other types of medical care. There was a 154% increase in telehealth visits during the last seven days of March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. This was most likely due to public health mandates that required a shift away from in-person care.

In addition, patients receive communications from their providers through email and other messaging systems that offer access to health care, health information and test results. And, departments of public health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have relied on their websites, online events and social media to educate the population about COVID-19. Access to the internet is essential during a pandemic.

This has been particularly true as the vaccine has been rolled out. Signing up for the vaccine has predominantly occurred online. This means that far fewer older adults from under resourced racial and ethnic minority communities have been able to make appointments.

In 2018, more than one in four Medicare beneficiaries had no digital access at home. Those without digital access were more likely to be 85 or older, members of racial or ethnic minority communities and from low-income households.

How internet access can determine health

Over the years, medical and public health experts have identified social factors – structural racism, a person's neighborhood, access to fresh food, exposure to toxins, income and education – that play a major role in health. These factors are often called the social determinants of health. Experts consider structural racism, or racism ingrained in social, business, educational and health policy and practice, to be one of the most damaging determinants. These factors in turn ultimately lead to more disease and death, as they have with COVID-19.

Internet access is emerging as a new determinant of health — Photo: Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

Early data on the case numbers and deaths from COVID-19 showed that structural racism likely increased exposure to the coronavirus among racial and ethnic minority communities. And racial gaps also impeded access to testing and affected the quality of care.

The pandemic has also illuminated the risk of infection to our aging population. However, research has placed less emphasis on how aging affects some populations more than others, such as the effects of structural racism and income.

Now, it appears that internet access is emerging as a new and troublesome determinant of health. This appears to be particularly true for under resourced racial and ethnic minority communities and aging populations.

Although people can make appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine by telephone, call centers are frequently overwhelmed. Hold times can be extremely long. Access to the internet, having an internet-enabled device and understanding how to use both have been necessary to sign up for the vaccine. Many advocacy groups and public health experts have begun to see internet access as a fundamental civil rights issue.

Policymakers must identify lack of internet access as a barrier and protect against its effects.

During the fall of 2020, we looked at this issue in more depth with Black and Latino individuals who are HIV positive and at risk for a cardiovascular event. In our research, we found that 17 out of 30 patients had no internet, no computer or lacked knowledge of how to use the internet or a computer. They, like many people with health issues or from under resourced racial and ethnic minority communities, are affected by numerous social determinants that amplify the negative health consequences they experience.

While online health services could be used to increase access and retention in care among vulnerable groups, not having access widens existing disparities.

To address the internet gap, we believe that policymakers must identify the lack of internet access as a barrier and protect against its effects. This could include reserving vaccines in under resourced racial and ethnic minority communities for residents and designating senior hours for those 65 and older.

Policymakers could also mandate timely reporting of demographic information, even within medical settings, to monitor equity. Public health administrators could also partner with organizations that work with vulnerable populations, such as Meals on Wheels, to deliver food and vaccines to individual homes.

Departments of public health also could work with organizations and trusted community leaders to produce culturally consistent multimedia information on vaccinations and other health topics. They could also arrange for billboards, freeway signs and posters at local restaurants.

In addition, health care professionals and organizations can help by teaching patients about government subsidies and internet programs for low-income individuals from internet service providers. They can also provide training on how to use the internet, which would be at least a good beginning for these vulnerable groups.

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