Geopolitics

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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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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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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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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Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

Waiting For Biden To Take a Stand On Iran

The Biden administration's 'contradictory' positions on Iran's nuclear dossier are making the West's allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, increasingly nervous, Ahmad Ra'fat writes in Kayhan London.

-Analysis-

LONDON — Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wants Europe to act as a troubleshooter and mediator, and ease the way for talks between Tehran and Washington. While the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell may have responded positively to this suggestion, France's President Emmanuel Macron has insisted Europe would only facilitate talks if Saudi Arabia — which fears the Islamic Republic's ambitions — were included in these talks and that they addressed issues beyond the Iranian nuclear program.

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Geopolitics
Roy Greenburgh

For Trump's Senate Trial, A Message From The Myanmar Coup

There was really just one element missing for a successful American putsch.

Rewind three months and two days. It's November 8, 2020, and the front pages of virtually every newspaper in the world announce Joe Biden's victory in the U.S. presidential election, settled after several tense days of vote-counting — and in spite of Donald Trump's continued refusal to concede defeat.

There's a straight line from those headlines to the Jan. 6 assault in Washington on the Capitol, as Trump spent the next two months spreading lies and rage in an unprecedented attempt in American history to subvert the results of a national election.

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Economy
Elsa Conesa

The GameStop Moment: Wall Street's Emperors Have No Clothes

One month after the insurrection on Capitol Hill, here are the rebels of Wall Street, a place of power no less symbolic.

-OpEd-

PARIS — One month after the uprising on Capitol Hill, behold the rebels of Wall Street, a place of power no less symbolic. This latest attack was led by an army of anonymous shareholders, driven by their desire for revenge against big business. Their main targets are hedge funds, especially those who make a profit by predicting downturns. But they are also trying to bring down the trading platforms that try to derail them. And banks — central banks, even — in the context of conspiracy. In the forums where the self-proclaimed "degenerates' or "retards' meet, their anti-establishment rhetoric is barely concealed.

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Ideas
Alasdair S. Roberts

The Fragility Of American Democracy Is Nothing New

For many people, the lesson from the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 – and more broadly from the experience of the last four years – is that American democracy has become newly and dangerously fragile.

That conclusion is overstated. In fact, American democracy has always been fragile. And it might be more precise to diagnose the United States as a fragile union rather than a fragile democracy. As President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address, national unity is "that most elusive of things."

Certainly, faith in American democracy has been battered over the last year. Polls show that 1 in 4 Americans do not recognize Joe Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. The turn to violence on Capitol Hill was a disturbing attack on an important symbol of U.S. democracy.

But there are four other factors that should be considered to evaluate the true state of the nation. Taking these into account, what emerges is a picture of a country that, despite its long tradition of presenting itself as exceptional, looks a lot like the other struggling democracies of the world.

Democratic fragility is not new

First, fragility is not really new. It's misleading to describe the United States as "the world's oldest democracy," as many observers have recently done. By modern definitions of the concept, the United States has only been a democracy for about 60 years. Despite constitutional guarantees, most Black Americans could not vote in important elections before the 1960s, nor did they have basic civil rights. Like many other countries, the United States is still working to consolidate democratic ideals.

Similarly, the struggle to contain political violence is not new. Washington has certainly seen its share of such violence. Since 1950, there have been multiple bombings and shootings at the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Troops have been deployed to keep order in Washington four times since World War I – during riots and unrest in 1919 and 1968, economic protests in 1932, and again in 2021. The route from the Capitol to the White House passes near the spots where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, James Garfield was fatally shot in 1881, and Harry Truman was attacked in 1950.

Members of the U.S. 3rd Cavalry sent to quell rioting in D.C. on July 21, 1919 — Photo: Patrick Sauer/Smithsonian/CC

Political instability is also a familiar feature of economic downturns. There were similar fears about the end of democracy during the 1970s, when the United States wrestled with inflation and unemployment, and during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Of course, those fears had some justification. Many people wondered whether democratic governments could rise to new challenges. But there is evidence from historical episodes like this that democracies do eventually adapt – indeed, that they are better at adapting than non-democratic systems like the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991.

Finally, the debate about American democracy is fixated excessively on politics at the national level. This fixation has been aggravated by the way that the media and internet have developed over the last 30 years. Political debate focuses more and more heavily on Washington. But the American political system also includes 50 state governments and 90,000 local governments. More than half a million people in the United States occupy a popularly elected office. Democratic practices may be imperfect, but they are extensive and not easily undone.

On balance, claims about the fragility of American democracy should be taken seriously, but with a sense of proportion. Events since the November 2020 election have been troubling, but they do not signal an impending collapse of America's democratic experiment.

A crisis of unity

It might be more useful to think of the present crisis in other terms. The real difficulty confronting the country might be a fragile national union, rather than a fragile democracy.

Since the 1990s, the country has seen the emergence of deep fissures between what came to be called "red" and "blue" America – two camps with very different views about national priorities and the role of federal government in particular. The result has been increasing rancor and gridlock in Washington.

Again, this sort of division is not new to American politics. "The United States' did not become established in American speech as a singular rather than a plural noun until after the Civil War. Until the 1950s, it was commonplace to describe the United States as a composite of sections – North, South and West – with distinctive interests and cultures.

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In 1932, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Frederick Jackson Turner compared the United States to Europe, describing it as a "federation of nations' held together through careful diplomacy.

It was only in the 1960s that this view of the United States faded away. Advances in transportation and communications seemed to forge the country into a single economic and cultural unit.

But politicians overestimated this transformation.

Return of old divisions

Since the 1990s, old divisions have re-emerged.

America's current political class has not fully absorbed this reality. Too often, it has taken unity for granted, forgetting the country's long history of sectional conflict. Because they took unity for granted, many new presidents in the modern era were tempted to launch their administrations with ambitious programs that galvanized followers while antagonizing opponents. However, this winner-take-all style may not be well suited to the needs of the present moment. It may aggravate divisions rather than rebuilding unity.

Only 20 years ago, many Americans – buoyed by an economic boom and the collapse of the Soviet Union – were convinced that their model of governance was on the brink of conquering the world. President George W. Bush declared American-style democracy to be the "single sustainable model for national success." By contrast, many people today worry that this model is on the brink of collapse.

The hubris of the early 2000s was misguided, and so is the despair of 2021. Like many other countries, the United States is engaged in a never-ending effort to maintain unity, contain political violence and live up to democratic principles.The Conversation

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Ideas
Alessio Perrone

Behind Biden's Message Of Unity, A Shattered America

MILAN — The first day of Joe Biden's presidency bore clear traces of some of the recent wounds inflicted on the United States. After being sworn in, Biden arrived at the White House protected by thousands of troops and barricades just two weeks since deadly violence engulfed the Capitol.

Thousands of flags stood in for the typical inauguration day crowds to prevent gatherings during the pandemic — and also the possibility of more violence. In his inaugural address, Biden appeared to compare the Trump presidency to a calamity, saying his country needs to "start afresh" and get together like it had after the Civil War, the Great Depression, World Wars, 9/11.

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Geopolitics
Anne Sophie Goninet

Bonjour President Biden: 26 Front Pages From Around The World

"Hope," "unity," "a new era," "democracy,"... Newspapers around the world reacted to the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who were sworn Wednesday in Washington D.C. Biden pledged to make the pandemic his first priority and build his presidency on a commitment to unity following the violence at the Capitol sparked by the refusal of his predecessor, Donald Trump, to accept the results of November's election.

U.S.

The Washington Post

The New York Times

New York Post

USA Today

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Ideas
Lucie Robequain

Joe Biden Won't Fix The World's Broken Diplomacy By Himself

Democrats who reach the White House do not necessarily play into the hands of Europeans. It is up to them to unify their voice to pass their agendas.

-OpEd-

The inauguration of Joe Biden opens a new chapter in the history of the United States, one filled with hopes that may quickly prove to be excessive. A new "New Deal" promises a shift in public health, diplomacy, and welfare for the American people.

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Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

Biden And Iran: The If, When And How Of Reopening Nuclear Talks

Iran's clerical regime is boosting its military and nuclear activities, perhaps in a bid to bolster its position ahead of possible talks to revive the 2015 nuclear pact.

-Analysis-

LONDON — Donald Trump is just hours away from ending his term in the White House, and once the Democrat Joseph Biden is sworn in as president — tomorrow, Jan. 20 — his team is expected to begin working almost immediately. That's assuming the Senate approves Biden's choice of secretaries, which seems likely as Democrats have a majority now in both houses of Congress.

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Geopolitics
Anne Sophie Goninet

The Donald Trump Presidency In 29 Magazine Covers

After four years in office and two months of denying his defeat to Joe Biden, U.S. President Donald Trump bids farewell this week to the White House. Whether this also means a final exit from the world stage remains to be seen — and one way to judge will be whether this is the last we've seen of Trump on covers of major magazines.

Trump has always been obsessed with media in general, and magazine covers in particular. In 2017, TIME had to explicitly refute the president's claim that he had passed on their choice to name him "Person of the Year" for a second year in a row and asked Trump to remove fake covers with his face on display in his golf clubs.

The endless worldwide series of Trump magazine covers is a technicolor reflection of his tumultuous presidency. From his footstomping "America First" stance to his intriguing relationship with Vladimir Putin to the pure "chaos' of his presidency, Trump was both a real threat to democracy and an endless opportunity for any creative magazine team:

2016 ELECTION: TRUMP WINS

Der Spiegel, Germany

The Economist, UK

The New Yorker, U.S.

New Statesman, UK

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Rue Amelot
Ranjani Iyer Mohanty

Say It Proud, Joe! Stutterers Of The World Will Be With Biden

Our New Delhi-based writer will be watching with pride as Kamala Harris becomes the first woman of Indian descent become vice president — but is also very much aware of the glass ceiling the incoming president is breaking.

-Essay-

NEW DELHI — On January 20th, four glass ceilings will be shattered in Washington: the United States will have its first woman vice president, first vice president of color, first vice president of Indian origin… and first president with a stutter.

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Trump And The World
Alessio Perrone

Washington, Rome, Kampala: The Sacred Counting Of Democracy

At 6 p.m. local time Wednesday in Rome, while much of the world was transfixed on Washington, D.C., Italian reporters were huddled in a vast room of the nation's Parliament to witness another political crisis unfolding.

Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced that his minor party would pull out of the government, plunging Italian politics into deep uncertainty that may only be resolved with a new snap election. Pundits accused Renzi of acting for his cynical personal interest, trying to force out Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to make space for his own comeback to the center of the political stage. Others noted that the announcement baffled Italians, who had just heard the news that their country had recorded 507 new COVID-19 deaths that day, pushing the toll past 80,000. Some argued that the far-right would win if the country heads to the polls.

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Trump And The World
Julie Chauveau

What Trump's Twitter Ban Means For The Rest Of The World

By closing Donald Trump's social media accounts, the Big Tech platforms have recognized for the first time their fundamental responsibility for the content they broadcast. But for this and other reasons that now also means the regulators must step up.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Do we have the right to silence a man for taking extreme positions, particularly if we are a private company? And what if the individual in question is the democratically elected head of state? These philosophical questions have suddenly become urgent with Twitter's decision to ban the account of the American president, Donald Trump, after the whole world watched in dismay as his supporters invaded the Capitol.

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