Economy

Cannabis Business: Latin America Can Export More Than Raw Material

Latin American businesses and governments are seeing the marketing and export potentials of an incipient liberalization of marijuana laws in the region. But to really cash in, it must be an investment in more than simple commodity crops.

LIMA — After his stint at Stanford University business school in California, Uruguayan entrepreneur Andrés Israel began to research the nascent global cannabis industry, to find the countries with the most favorable regulations for its large-scale production and use. They were Canada and Uruguay, with the latter legalizing its recreational use in 2013.

After he returned home, Israel founded the Cannabis Company Builder (CCB) to help new firms exploit Uruguay's new legal framework. Cannabis, he says, is a "blue ocean" industry, with major growth horizon and few current regulations — and Uruguay is at its forefront.

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Why The Power Keeps Getting Cut In Oil-Rich Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran has no shortage of oil and gas. And yet, its people and industries are having to contend right now with regular power cuts. The question, then, is why, and what — if anything — the Iranian government can hope to do about it.

Analysis-

LONDON — Repeated power cuts in Iran have made lives a misery in recent months and are pushing industry, production and services to critical limits. In early July, when President Ibrahim Raisi officially began work as head of the 13th government of the Islamic Republic, he asked the outgoing energy minister Reza Ardakanian why this was happening.

Sources within the energy sector have given some clues and warn that shortages will continue into the winter. Mostafa Rajabi-Mashhadi, a spokesman for the electricity industry, has said there is a "20% shortage in fuel" needed for power production, while Nosratollah Kazemi, a member of the sector's main trade union, recently blamed a "lack of correct planning in energy," warning that even if policies were rectified now, outages could continue for two or three more years.

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As Hopes For Iran Nuclear Deal Fade, Uranium Enrichment Accelerates

Institute for Science and International Security concludes that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level, with new centrifuges meaning that Tehran is a month away from obtaining arms-grade material to move toward its first weapon.

-Analysis-

The U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security, which includes independent nuclear power experts, concludes from information issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level — and thanks to new types of centrifuges, Tehran is barely a month away from obtaining weapons-grade material. The specialists caution that weapons-grade uranium is not the same as a nuclear bomb, for which delivery weapons and assemblage are needed. That would require another two years.

The Institute's experts believe Iran could produce material for a second bomb within a three-month time frame and that unless its activities are slowed, it may have enough enriched uranium for three bombs in the next five months.

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Submarine Backlash, Toughest Vaccine Mandate, Prince Philip’s Secret Will

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

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Geopolitics
Daniel García-Peña

Like Afghan War, The U.S. War On Drugs Must End

The United States has long dictated policy regarding narcotics, and Colombia, in particular, has paid a heavy price. The current presidential race is an opportunity to shift course and prioritize the welfare of everyday people.

-OpEd-

More than 20 years ago, I read a headline in the satirical U.S. newspaper The Onion declaring "Drugs Win Drug War." It would be an appropriate headline for this item too, but not as a joke. As the years have shown, it's an accurate description of reality.

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Society

9/11 Front Pages: World Newspapers Coverage Of The Attack

History happened instantly before our eyes 20 years ago on September 11, 2001 — and the global press was there to offer a first view on a day that continues to live in infamy. Here are 31 newspaper front pages and magazine covers.

By the time United Airlines Flight 175 sliced into the second tower, news reporters and editors around the world knew they were facing the most monumental story of their lifetime. The Sep. 11 attacks forever changed the world, and put the powers of modern journalism, from real-time video coverage to deep news analysis (on deadline), to the test like never before.

With events unfolding on that Tuesday morning in New York and Washington, newspapers around the world could go to print that evening with special editions for Sep. 12 that offered the proverbial "first draft of history" on their respective front pages. News magazines followed suit with tragically iconic covers. TIME magazine's lead writer Nancy Gibbs recently recalled the unique pressure of producing a special issue in 24 hours.

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Geopolitics
Kayhan London

Reports: U.S. Arms Abandoned In Afghanistan Moved To Iran

Weaponry belonging to the Afghan army is moving into Iran, though it is not clear if it is smuggled, or moved in a deal between the Taliban and Iran's regime.

LONDON — With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, much of the U.S.-supplied military hardware formerly used by the country's armed forces have fallen into their hands. This terrorist group that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, and gave refuge to other terrorists, especially al-Qaeda, now has its hands on advanced military weaponry and know-how.

It has also become clear that neighboring Iran was keen and ready to get its own hands on this material, either to use directly or to copy the weapon design.

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Geopolitics
Jorge E. Malena

China Is Now The Superpower With Biggest Stake In Afghanistan

China has big business interests in Afghanistan and security concerns on its western border; and following the U.S. pullout and Taliban takeover, Beijing will not tolerate the country becoming a source of regional unrest.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — For Beijing, the recent U.S. pullout and Taliban takeover makes Afghanistan an urgent matter. A hostile Afghanistan could not only threaten its hold on the "autonomous" western region of Xinjiang, but also the implementation of China's Belt and Road Initiative (or New Silk Road). Chinese interests in Afghanistan relate principally to security, but also the potential impact on the economy.

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Geopolitics
Juan Manuel Ospina

Colombia: The Cost Of 50 Years Of Failed Drug Policies

Colombia, not the United States, has been the chief victim of drug trafficking and failed anti-narcotics policies. It has a right, if not a duty, to seek other ways of curbing a chain of actions that have corrupted its society.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Historically, Colombia has not been indifferent to the reality of that disastrous enterprise called the war on drugs. It was a hypocritical and, as we can see now, utterly useless endeavor launched by U.S. President Richard Nixon. More than 50 years later, it's a universal example of political stupidity and clumsiness. The only thing Colombia has observed is that drugs have advanced unchecked and diversified in terms of products and customers. The marijuana dear to hippies is often hailed today as a miracle remedy. Magic mushrooms, already used in traditional cultures, gave way to a "line" of coke and heroin for executive types and partygoers, and more recently to chemical products made in the main consumer markets, which are the industrialized countries.

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Geopolitics
Sergey Strokan

Why The UK Is Leading West's 'Propaganda War' Against Russia

London is taking a hardline against Moscow since Trump's departure left Putin increasingly isolated.

-Analysis-

MOSCOW — Seven years after Russia was expelled from the club of Western democracies, the U.K. is calling for another war with Moscow — an information war — creating collective mechanisms to contain the Kremlin's "propaganda and disinformation."

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eyes on the U.S.
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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Geopolitics
Lena Surzhko Harned and Luis Jimenez*

After Trump, U.S. Faces Risk Of Slipping Into 'Hybrid' Regime

From Venezuela to Belarus, there are countries that have elements of democracy but fall well short of acceptable standards of freedom and transparency. Will the U.S. end up there too?

Six weeks after the U.S. election, President Donald Trump had still not accepted defeat. This behavior is not typical in mature democracies. And it's reminiscent of countries with what political scientists call "hybrid regimes" – nations that have elements of democracy but in practice are not democracies.

For us – politics scholars studying Latin America and the former Soviet Union – Trump's resistance to election results underscores the fragility of democratic institutions when confronted with authoritarian practices. These include deligitimizing election results, interfering with judicial independence and attacking independent media and opposition.

Trump is part of a global trend in authoritarianism. The United States can learn a great deal from other countries where democracies fell victim to the authoritarian playbook.

Rigging elections

Trump and members of the Republican Party claimed fraud in the presidential elections. They attempted to overturn legally cast ballots in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan. Trump, furthermore, has urged state leaders to ignore the will of voters and give their electoral votes to him.

Disregard for voters and electoral rules are tactics well documented in hybrid regimes. Although Trump has charged that the U.S. election was rigged, it was not.

Truly rigged elections involve practices like ballot box stuffing – adding false ballots to legitimate ones, or buying the electorate by offering citizens money or jobs in exchange for votes.

Barring opposition candidates from running for office, as Russia has done, is another tactic.

Other regimes, like Alexander Lukashenko's in Belarus, pressure electoral officials to falsify electoral results to ensure victories with wide margins. This triggered massive protests in August.

Crowds in Minsk call for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, on Aug. 23, 2020. Ulf Mauder/picture alliance via Getty Images

In Venezuela, since roughly 2005, former President Hugo Chávez seized control of vote processing and counting through the National Electoral Council, a branch of government that oversees elections. This way, any election irregularities always hurt the opposition.

And Chávez encouraged the electorate to vote for him if they were state employees or received government benefits. At times, they received outright threats that they would lose their jobs if they did not vote for him.

Other forms of "encouragement" in Venezuela included "red tents" next to polling stations. These were government stations where people could sign up for government benefits and receive small gifts.

President Trump did something similar by putting his name on stimulus checks in April, which may have been illegal but was never adjudicated.

He also tried to rig the U.S. election by insisting that mail-in votes should not be counted after Election Day, and then attempted to overturn election results based on that claim.

"Enemies of the people"

Coined by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, the phrase "enemies of the people" – used against all who disagreed with him – has entered Trump's vocabulary.

Earlier in his presidency, Trump called the press the "enemies of the people." More recently, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican secretary of state, earned this title from Trump after defending his state's election process.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 2000 and consolidated his autocratic rule by amending the Russian constitution, has a long list of opposition leaders, civil groups and journalists who have become "enemies of the people."

Pet judiciaries

Before the election, Trump insisted mail voting was riddled with fraud and tried to overturn Nevada's vote-by-mail law. He insisted that there would be election disputes and that filling the Supreme Court seat was crucial for that reason.

Yes, the high court has rejected Trump's efforts to overturn election results. But Trump's audacious attempt mirrors tactics used by authoritarian leaders.

Similar scenarios to the one Trump hoped for played out with Evo Morales in Bolivia and Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras.

Morales and Hernández were able to install judges who ruled that clauses in the constitutions prohibiting reelection were unconstitutional. That, in turn, allowed both leaders to run successfully for reelection.

"Law and order"

Authoritarian leaders also favor "law and order" arguments to justify their legitimacy. They paint themselves as the ultimate arbiters of what presents a threat.

Russia's Putin has emphasized his commitment to stability and security, elevating the status of security forces loyal to him, known as siloviki. These security forces now hold high positions in Russian politics, business and society.

Trump has also cultivated the image of a strongman, calling for the mobilization of the National Guard to quell racial justice protests.

Similar to autocratic leaders in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ukraine, Trump has refused to denounce far-right militias like the Proud Boys, telling them instead to "stand back and stand by," which was interpreted as a command.

And he suggested that people "liberate" Michigan from the state's social distancing measures amid the pandemic, a move critics denounced for inciting insurrection.

Maduro is seen during the United Socialist Party of Venezuela's annual congress on July 31, 2014. Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images

Trump has used ploys from the autocratic playbook throughout his presidency, and that will have lasting consequences.

Trump's rejection of election results damages the legitimacy of the democratic process.

In general, it encourages other autocrats and would-be autocrats to challenge the electoral process if they don't like the results. For the U.S., it promotes the belief that President-elect Joe Biden's presidency will be illegitimate.

A country's stability largely depends on people accepting the results if their side loses. If a significant portion of the public refuses to, history shows that violence will not be far behind.

For the United States, the lesson is stark. Surviving the recent electoral turmoil does not guarantee it will outlast a similar scenario the next time.

Republican leaders' failure to repudiate baseless allegations of electoral fraud – and some Republicans' willingness to pursue legal action based on these claims – further undermines the legitimacy of the democratic process.

Trump was defeated, but Trumpism will have a lasting effect.

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eyes on the U.S.
Federico Finchelstein

Joe Biden's Real Challenge: Moving Beyond Anti-Trumpism

President-elect Joe Biden's ample support base is fluid and can melt away, if his administration ignores the social and political grievances that led millions to vote for Donald Trump.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — U.S. President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will face immense, and in many ways unprecedented challenges, upon taking office on Jan. 20. Future historians will have much to say on how "Trumpism" or radical right-wing views espoused by the outgoing President Donald J. Trump, took populism close to fascism and dictatorship. But history will also record how, after one term, he was rejected on Nov. 3. A record number of Americans — more than 81 million — voted for Biden, united by their opposition to Trump and his ideas.

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Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID-19's Essential Workers Shake Up Minimum Wage Debate

Why are some of society's most crucial employees still fighting to get paid a fair wage?

After the arrival of COVID-19, we started calling them "essential workers," as the pandemic gave long overdue recognition to those driving our buses, sweeping our floors, stocking our supermarket shelves. These are the people formerly known simply as "low-paid workers."

The bitter irony of the effect of the health crisis on the world of work, compounded by the overall disproportionate effect of the virus on poorer communities, has begun to fuel the simmering worldwide debate about minimum wage.

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eyes on the U.S.
Dominique Moisi

Trump And The Totalitarian Temptation

By prematurely declaring victory, while the counting of votes is still ongoing, Donald Trump is taking a leaf out of an autocrat’s playbook.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The Permanent Coup. This was the title of a controversial 1964 essay by François Mitterrand in which he denounced then President Charles de Gaulle's exercise of power in France. What words would Mitterrand choose today to describe Donald Trump"s anti-democratic practices?

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eyes on the U.S.
Henryk M. Broder

'Schadenfreude' For Trump, A German Dose Of Pandemic Justice

“Zeitgeist,” “Kindergarten,” “Wanderlust” have long since made it into international speak. Since we found out that U.S. President Donald Trump was infected with coronavirus, another popular German word has been spreading.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Despite all the efforts of the 159 Goethe Institutes in 98 countries, German has not become a global language. The number of people who — outside of China — learn Chinese is many times greater than that of those who would like to read Karl Marx and Hermann Hesse in the original language.

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