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Society

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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. Capitoland the White House. Troops have been deployed to keep order in Washington four times since World War I – during riots and unrest in 1919and 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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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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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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