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Alistair Burt to Majalla: The UK Very Actively Supports Saudi Arabiaâ€™s Right to Self-Defense www.majalla.com
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A veterinarian tends to a rescued baby black gibbon (symphalangus syndactylus) at a local nature conservation agency›s office in Banda Aceh, Aceh province on September 201 ,13 Siamangs are listed as ‹endangered› in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. (Getty)
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Alistair Burt to :The UK Very Actively Supports Saudi Arabia’s Right to Self-Defense Minister of State for the Middle East: The Houthis carefully use the media to target the Kingdom and the British government is doing its best to explain the real circumstances of the Yemen war by Yasmine El-Geressi Alistair Burt was appointed Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development on 13 June 2017. He entered Parliament for the first time in 1983 and was elected Conservative MP for north east Bedfordshire in 2001. Alistair served as Minister of State for Community and Social Care at the Department of Health from May 2015 until July 2016. Previously he served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from May 2010 until October 2013. In his interview with Majalla, Alistair Burt appraised the UK’s support for the legitimate right of its ally Saudi Arabia to respond to the critical threat posed to its security by the Iran-backed
Houthi rebels. He flagged concerns about reports that Iran is violating a U.N. arms embargo by arming the Houthis. He explained that there has been a deliberate attempt by the Houthis to mislead the public by pushing a slanted perspective of the war in the media and assured that the British government is doing its best to present the facts to the British people. And he highlighted new opportunities for cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the UK as both countries undergo fascinating changes. You have voiced support for the Saudi-led coalition’s support of the Yemeni government against an Iran-backed Houthi insurgency. You have also defended Britain’s support of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the conflict. Why is it in the UK’s national interest to do so? The United Kingdom believes very strongly in a rules-based world order where states don't act arbitrarily and we see the conflict in Yemen very
For an ally under pressure and for working for a legitimate government, we think that's in the United Kingdom’s national interest to support those interests cannot seek support if it has done nothing wrong then of course we are in a very difficult situation. The United Kingdom saw the intervention of the coalition as a legitimate intervention. We think it's in the United Kingdom's national interest to support such a rules-based order but we're also very conscious that Saudi Arabia itself had been under attack for some time. There have been regular Houthi attacks over a lengthy period of time but this has increased and Saudi Arabia has a legitimate right to self-defense which the United Kingdom supports very actively. For an ally under pressure and for working for a legitimate government, we think that it is in the United Kingdom’s national interest to support those interests. What is the UK doing to contribute to a political settlement in Yemen and bring an end to the war? Alistair Burt
much as a response to an insurgency against a legitimate government. I think many people are aware of the difficult background of Yemen - the events of 2011, the abdication of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an opportunity then for Yemen to have a completely fresh start with a national dialogue and an opportunity for Yemenis to decide on the future of the government. That collapsed when the Houthi insurgency removed the government of the new president, President Hadi, and then continued its advance having captured Saleh and its advance towards Aden where the president had to flee for refuge. Now at that stage the government made a plea for help and assistance. This was backed by the United Nations and in this circumstance the coalition responded to both protect itself and to restore the legitimate government. That's what we think an international rules-based order is for. If a legitimate government
It is absolutely vital that the war comes to an end as quickly as possible. It has a massive humanitarian impact on the people of Yemen, so many of whom are dependent now on humanitarian assistance. The sooner the conflict comes to an end the better. The best chance at the moment is through the United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. We practically and physically support him. 1.68£ million goes to his office for support and we want to see those talks succeed. We're absolutely behind all the diplomatic efforts both at the UN in New York and supporting Martin Griffiths in the region to try and get the talks going. We're doing all we can. We do provide humanitarian support because of the impact on the people. The United Kingdom’s total contribution at the moment is something like 570£ million. The best thing that can happen is that Houthi controlled areas have
really got to change. It's got to be a settlement which allows humanitarian access to people in need. We are playing a part in we hope providing an opportunity for the development of Yemen in the future once the conflict comes to an end and doing all we can to promote an active end to the conflict. What do you think the UK can do more in the realm of helping the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen? I think at the moment it's difficult to see what more we can do. I think we've got to continue our efforts in order to encourage others to play an international part. There are others who have for example more direct relationships with Houthi which the United Kingdom does not have. The special envoy has that and we support him in that we talk to other states that might have an interest in this in order to encourage them. But the important thing is to keep very good contact with the coalition to support it in terms of making sure that it sticks with international humanitarian law in relation to its operations and above all continue to give effort to support the peace process. How does the UK government envision a successful political settlement in Yemen? Ultimately, it's got to be for the Yemeni people to make their decisions on this. Certainly, a reinvigoration of the national dialogue will be in everyone's best interest but that can only be done when people are free of the possibility of conflict and can attend conferences and make their own
There is a legitimate internationally backed UN backed effort to restore a legitimate government and that is straightforwardly the fact
decisions. It's got to be inclusive. It has to include those who have not taken part in the governance of Yemen before. It has largely been under the control of a very small group of people and mostly using coercion. This has got to change. This is the way the world is moving. Younger people and women have got a stake in their country's future and they need to be part of the national dialogue and all regions of Yemen have got to take seriously what may happen. We are aware of the history of Yemen and those in the south who are looking for a structure of government which gives them a degree of autonomy in their region but what sort of structure that should be is ultimately for the Yemeni people to decide. The sooner that process can begin the better. You previously said that there is a tendency to view the conflict through a single prism. Could you tell us more about your views on this issue? Do you
Saudi Arabia is entitled to support from those who provide its defense and the combined efforts of all of us to end the conflict that causes the opportunity for attacks against innocents in the Kingdom and these days people are very adept at using it. We know that the Houthi very carefully use media to put over a point of view which reinforces that overall sense which I gave you a moment ago. It's vital therefore that everything the coalition does is transparent and that if there are military interventions which cause civilian casualties that that is explained and that there is a mechanism to explain to the public what has gone on and that there is complete openness. This always helps as well. And then when opponents of the coalition can be confounded by how the Coalition has approached something then of course we think that is a good message as well. We're very clear about our aims but above all the best message would be that the conflict has come to an end because if there are no more casualties to report, if there are no more air strikes to report on because the believe that the British public are unaware of all work has been done to get the conflict ended and sides of the story? people talking, that is the best message of all and the United Kingdom will be very involved in that. What I meant by that is that there are elements who have access to the media who have for a Do you believe that there is a tendency to equate long period of time targeted the Kingdom of the actions of the coalition that entered the war to Saudi Arabia and have done everything that they protect the legitimate government of Yemen from could to make this a one-sided issue to try and takeover with the actions of the radical militia either not talk about the events and facts that led that are allied with Hezbollah and Iran? to coalition intervention or to betray this conflict only as the military power of the coalition against Yes. People always like to seek equivalence in these legitimate interests in Yemen. We've done our things where it doesn't exist and we're very clear best in government to try and explain to the on that. There is a legitimate internationally backed British people what the real circumstances are. United Nations backed effort to restore a legitimate We continue to do that for those who wish to hear government and that is straightforwardly the fact. that we're quite sure that the message is sound a That is being opposed by those who caused the war one and is out there. For those who don't wish to through the insurgency and those who support them. hear of course, it's very difficult. The situation is The best thing that those who are supporting the always complicated by access to media locally insurgency can do is to stop that, to do everything
in their power to encourage those who have been involved in the insurgency to take part in talks that will end it and for the coalition to be very active in those talks as well and to appreciate that the end of this will come through a political resolution supported by the U.N. That’s what the UK wishes to see and in the meantime, we make strenuous efforts to protect those civilians who have been affected and the effect has been hugely significant. Yemen needs a fresh start and it needs a fair start for its people otherwise the risk of people using the space of Yemen for further unprovoked attacks on Saudi Arabia and its neighbors will still be there. Now Saudi Arabia is entitled to defense against that, the support from those who provide its defense and the combined efforts of all of us to end the conflict that causes the opportunity for attacks against innocents in Saudi Arabia. You were in Saudi Arabia in July where you met with with Saudi Ministers, the Secretary-General of the GCC and the Foreign Minister of Yemen. How was your visit? I enjoy my visits to the Kingdom as it gives me the opportunity to meet with my counterparts. I spent time with his excellency the Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. It was also a chance to meet the Yemeni Foreign Minister which was very important. All in all, it was a good opportunity to visit. It is an exciting time in Saudi Arabia. We of course had the pleasure of his Highness the Crown Prince’s visit to the UK in March which was so important to talk about Vision 2030 and what is in store for Saudi Arabia. It is a chance for me not just to do politics but to see a bit of life there and appreciate
We had the pleasure of His Highness the Crown Prince’s visit to the UK in March which was so important to talk about Vision 2030 and what is in store for Saudi Arabia
the changes that are taking place. Our relationship is very strong and these regular exchanges help a great deal. Saudi Arabia is undergoing a transformational change under Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s Vision 2030. What are your impressions of the initiative and how do you view this as an opportunity to deepen the UK-Saudi relationship, particularly as the UK is also going through a transformative period in its history? We have both got long histories and it's fascinating what's happening in both our states. Change comes quicker these days and sometimes that's hard for countries to appreciate the time scale. Traders measure the time it takes from the imagination of a product, the development of a product, to it appearing in the market. And if you look at these trends you find that things that took months or years before, now happen in almost a blink of an eye. We've seen it with technology and everything else. Everything's quicker but people don't change quite as quickly as the world around them and in some
There are elements who have access to the media who have for a long period of time targeted the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and have done everything that they could to make the Yemen war a one-sided issue be a global state -global Britain- and so the long term relationships particularly in the Gulf will be of great importance to us. It is an exciting time for all. Vision 2030 makes a really good contribution to this. There are developments in other Gulf states that we support as well. It should be a good time for many different sectors of our societies to do more with each other.
places, it's even harder. We've all got within our societies people who like change - young people of course who see a world developing that they want to be part of and their world is the future rather more than the past. And then there's an older generation who have gotten used to things as they were and sometimes of course there's a clash between them. That is in any society. What His Highness appears to be doing is to recognize the changes that are taking place in the world and looking at what Saudi Arabia can contribute to that. It also realises that over time the foundation of its wealth will have to change. The oil rich mineral based wealth will one day not be there so to use that wealth now to prepare for change is absolutely the right thing to do and we're very excited about that because we've got a lot of technological developments that can make a contribution. We want to see the passage of more people between the two states. The world is becoming a smaller place so we think this is an exciting time for all. You refer to changes in the United Kingdom, it is absolutely true. Our relationships within Europe will obviously change next year but it won't change our determination to
Earlier this month you met with Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and Iranian officials in Tehran and Iranâ€™s ballistic missile programme and its destabilising activities in the Middle East were discussed. Has the UK put pressure on Iran to cease their interference in Yemen by supporting and exporting weapons to the Houthi militia? We are very disturbed at reports that have liked Iranian supplies of weapons to the Houthis. It is contrary to the United Nations resolution which bans such exports into Yemen. We are very disturbed by these allegations and these reports which report very directly to the Iranian authorities. We don't believe it can be in the Iranian stateâ€™s interest to keep the conflict going. We believe it is in their interest to do all it can in whatever influence it may have with the Houthis to bring things to an end. We do make this very clear in our engagement with the Iranians and we believe that all parties that have any contact with any of the parties to the conflict should be doing as much as possible to persuade them that the only settlement is a political settlement, not a military solution, and everybody should be playing their part in relation to that. If not there are great risks in the region of things escalating which would absolutely be in no one's interest.
Trump’s New Refugee Policy Administration Faces Criticism for Seeking Sharp Cut in Refugees Settled in US
by Tracy Wilkinson Facing backlash over the decision to drastically limit the number of refugees who will be permitted to settle in the United States, State Department officials are attempting to defend the move and soften its impact. But ultimately, the proposed new quota — a third of last year’s number and an all-time low — will
probably remain the same or even smaller because it fits into President Donald Trump’s broader policy, which critics say is aimed at reducing the number of foreign-born people in the United States. Amid what the United Nations calls the worst refugee crisis since World War II, millions of people have fled war, famine or political repression in the Middle East, Africa and more
The new all-time low quota fits into President Donald Trump’s broader policy, which critics say is aimed at reducing the number of foreign-born people in the US number of refugees accepted in the United States by a third, down to 30,000 from this year’s cap of 45,000 and the lowest since the Refugee Act was adopted nearly 40 years ago. It is the second consecutive year the ceiling has been lowered. Pompeo said the lower goal was made necessary by the backlog of asylum seekers in the United States, numbering 800,000. The cap reflects “our commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people, as President Trump has directed,” Pompeo said. Barely 24 hours later, the decision was met with a scathing blast of criticism from members of Congress and immigrant-advocacy and human rights groups. Refugee advocates described the proposed limit as appalling and an affront to front-line countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey that have received millions of refugees.
Iraqi refugees who fled Mosul look from behind a fence at the UN-run Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria's Hasakeh province, on October 2016 ,25. (Getty)
recently, Central and South America. Despite some polls that show general public support for refugees, Trump has been accused of trying to build political capital among his base by stoking fear of immigrants and apathy toward refugees. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced late Monday the administration’s plan to slash the
“The abysmally low refugee cap … is a shameful abdication of our humanity in the face of the worst refugee crisis in history,” said Jennifer Quigley of the Human Rights First advocacy organization. “By setting the lowest refugee cap in history, we have turned our backs not only on those in dire circumstances abroad, but on our own American ideals.” Ryan Mace, refugee specialist at the U.S. branch of Amnesty International, said the new ceiling, compounded by “roadblock after roadblock” for refugees, was an “all-out
attack” on refugee resettlement. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., was one of several lawmakers, mostly Democratic, who condemned Pompeo’s proposal as a cruel move that will only weaken the United States. He said it was part of Trump’s determination “to build metaphorical walls” around the country. The State Department attempted to clarify that the new ceiling was merely a recommendation that would be reviewed by Congress before the White House would sign off. The Trump administration wants to prevent immigration and floods of refugees by helping improve conditions in the home countries, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday. At the same time, however, the administration is reducing much of the aid that would fulfill that goal, such as reconstruction money for Syria and Iraq and democracy-building assistance in Central America. “America is the most generous nation in the entire world,” Nauert said. But, she added, “Our pockets are not unlimited.” Limiting refugees is just the latest in a string of anti-immigrant policies under the Trump administration, including an increase in the rejection of asylum applications; stepped-up raids on immigrant communities; increased deportations; separation of immigrant families who entered the country illegally; and ending a
In the last year, 70 percent of refugees admitted to the US were Christian to about 14 percent Muslim, even though about 40 percent of displaced people worldwide are Muslim.
special temporary-protection status of thousands of people from war-torn countries or those suffering natural disasters, such as Haiti, Yemen and El Salvador. From the early weeks of his government, Trump has made clear that his overall goal is to reduce legal and illegal immigration. His policies could eventually change the ethnic makeup of the United States. Trump has said immigration should be based on “merit” and favor those who can easily “assimilate” or as he once put it, come “from places like Norway.” Trump reiterated that sentiment on Tuesday during the visit of Polish President Andrzej Duda when asked by reporters about visa waivers for Poles.
President Donald Trump (R), speaks during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on August ,16 2018 in Washington, DC. Next to President Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Getty)
“We love the people of Poland coming to the United States in any way, shape or form,” Trump said. In contrast, he has criticized immigration from poorer nations in Africa and Central America, calling them “shitholes.” In the last year, refugees admitted to the United States are overwhelmingly Christian, about 70 percent, to about 14 percent Muslim, according to State Department figures, even though about 40 percent of the more than 60 million displaced people worldwide are Muslim. Early in his administration, Trump sought to declare a ban on people arriving in the U.S. from several mostly Muslim countries. The ban, after numerous court stays, only survived after adjustments to assure courts that Muslims were not being targeted.
The new cap would apply in the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Only about 21,000 refugees have been permitted in during the fiscal year now ending, fewer than half of those allowed under the current ceiling of 45,000, according to State Department data. Even in Europe, which has received the brunt of refugee flows from the Middle East that ultimately created significant political backlash, numerous countries have majorities that approve of receiving refugees, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center. Spain, Germany, Sweden, Britain and other countries that have seen immigration spur a rightwing nationalist surge nevertheless have threequarters or more of their populations favoring refugee arrivals, the Pew study, conducted this summer, said.
Can New Leadership U
by Richard E. Feinberg and Ted Piccone For Cuba, 2018 marks the end of an era. For the first time in almost six decades, the country’s president is no longer a Castro—neither the late guerilla fighter, revolutionary caudillo, and international icon Fidel, nor his lower-profile brother Raúl, who succeeded Fidel as president in 2008. This April, the mantle was instead passed to former vice-president Miguel Díaz-Canel, a younger post-revolutionary politician who raised paradoxical hopes of both continuity and change.
Yet for those who imagined that the post-Castro era would quickly bring major reforms, Díaz-Canel’s tenure so far has been sorely disappointing. Five months in, progress in the country has come either slowly or not at all. The island’s economy continues to decline, just as it has since the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly 30 years ago, and this despite the carefully calibrated reforms Raul Castro instituted in 2011. Investment rates are alarmingly low, foreign exchange scarce, and shortages of consumer goods widespread. Many discontented Cubans, especially educated youth, continue to emigrate in search of higher living standards
For those who imagined that the post-Castro era would quickly bring major reforms, Díaz-Canel’s tenure so far has been sorely disappointing
Unfreeze Cuban Politics After the Castros?
regime change and posture of hostility and isolation.
STAGNATION NATION Díaz-Canel has inherited an economy in a state of transition. During his decade-long rule, Raúl Castro broke through once-forbidding ideological barriers on economic policy. He actively inserted Cuba into global commerce, opened the island to foreign investment, and promoted a burgeoning domestic private sector. Raúl also relaxed barriers to travel abroad, allowed private markets for real estate and automobiles, and gradually expanded access to mobile technology and social media. The private sector took off. By 2017, it provided jobs and income to as many as four out of ten Cubans of working age. Tourist traffic rose more than 80 percent during Raul’s tenure. Even though U.S. travelers became less common on the streets of Havana over the course of 2017, as the Obama bump gave way to a Trump dip, tourism is once again the brightest feature of the Cuban economy. And yet, the Cuban economy has performed poorly overall. During the decade of Raúl Castro’s rule, Cuba’s GDP grew an average 2.4 percent per year—at least according to government statistics. At times, GDP growth stagnated at below two percent per year. Five percent would be the minimum necessary for Cuba’s growth to be considered sustainable.
President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel (L) greets Cubans along with the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), Raúl Castro (C) and president of the Communist Party of Chile, Guillermo Teillier (L) during a parade in celebration of the International Labor Day to support the new president and the validity of the revolutionary legacy, in Havana, Cuba. (Getty)
and better career choices, depleting the current and future workforce. Reformers and hardliners continue to do battle within the Cuban Communist Party. A new draft constitution promises progress, notably on gender and gay rights, but it also reaffirms the hegemony of the Cuban Communist Party and institutionalizes outdated economic thinking. Recent government initiatives further restrict individual freedoms in business, the arts, and media. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has largely returned to the pre-Obama rhetoric of
The government has failed to create a truly receptive business climate, and outside the flourishing tourism sector, foreign investors remain skeptical. The precipitous drop in Cuba’s merchandise exports bodes particularly ill, signaling that the country’s state-owned enterprises are failing to compete in global markets. In 2016, these exports shrunk to less than 3$ billion, their lowest level in more than ten years. In response, authorities slashed imports, from a peak of nearly 15$ billion in 2013 to 10.4$ billion in 2016. The loss of these imports has left Cuban stores empty of the most basic consumer items, from beer and paper products to spare parts for household appliances. All the while, restrictions on bringing capital goods into the country continue to exacerbate the already serious lack of factory machinery and farm equipment.
Change is unlikely to materialize soon. The Díaz-Canel administration, occupied with managing austerity policies, has not yet laid out a new economic policy agenda, much less a strategic vision for long-term development. In July, the government issued tough new regulations for the island’s emerging private enterprises. Aimed at preventing private companies and citizens from accumulating wealth—and nipping in the bud any potential challenge to the state’s monopoly on economic and political power—the new rules show that Cuban leaders are still extremely wary of, if not outright hostile to, private enterprise.
OLD RUM IN NEW BOTTLES? Cuban politics are similarly resistant to change. Raúl Castro is still very present—as head of the Cuban Communist Party until 2021 and as leader of the government’s current efforts to revise the constitution. Every step of the relatively smooth succession process seemed designed to signal continuity with the measured pace of change that had marked Raúl Castro’s tenure, encapsulated by his maxim “sin prisa, pero sin pausa”—without haste, but without pause. It’s no wonder, then, that Díaz-Canel told the national assembly upon donning the presidential sash that “comrade Raúl will head the decisions for the present and future of the nation.” Díaz-Canel has a lighter touch and is less camera-shy than his predecessor, but when it comes to policymaking, he has so far failed to deliver change. He retains a largely inherited team of senior bureaucrats, and his public remarks have been less about programmatic innovation than about maintaining party unity. Granted, this could be a temporary posture meant to reassure the old party apparatchiks while he builds a more autonomous governing class of technocrats. By this interpretation, the -58 year old is cautiously cultivating a power base of his own to set forward in the later portion of his five-year term, especially after Raúl steps down as party chief in 2021. On the institutional side, recent changes are a mixed bag. The National Assembly chosen in March includes a mix of old and new faces. More than half of the deputies are new, 53 percent are
Tragically, Cubans of all stripes, including too many of the best and the brightest, will continue to seek opportunities elsewhere
women, and 41 percent are black or of mixed race. Likewise, the council of state, which is headed by Díaz-Canel and effectively governs the country year-round, has three new vice presidents between the ages of 48 and 52—young leadership for a country long ruled by former revolutionaries in their seventies and older. New rules mandate that deputies serve no more than two fiveyear terms and enter office at an age no older than 60. Taken together, the changes suggest that party leaders understand the importance of making the benefits of public office accessible to younger cadres and of diversifying the ranks of the governing elite. A proposed constitutional reform, meanwhile, promises a modest but potentially meaningful political opening. The draft constitution divides power between a president serving as head of state and a prime minister who manages the government’s dayto-day functions. It devolves more autonomy over local affairs to provincial authorities, even though governors would still be appointed by the president. Other provisions suggest greater separation between state and party, even though the overlap in personnel would probably remain high. A new national electoral council would improve the image of the country’s elections, if not their actual integrity. Citizens who gather at least 10,000 signatures can propose legislation. Those who gather 50,000 or more will be able to initiate constitutional revisions. The draft constitution explicitly grants important civil and due process rights, including habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, the right to seek restitution for violations committed by state agents, non-discrimination regardless of sexual orientation, and religious liberty. But it makes such fundamental rights conditional upon “collective security, general well-being, respect for public order, the Constitution and laws.” The draft document is rife with such contradictory loopholes that ultimately confirm
A man remains in a balcony next to a picture of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro at San Francisco de Asis Square in Havana, on November ,27 2016 two days after Castro's death. (Getty)
Either the US can accept Cuba’s reality or it can maintain its efforts to pursue regime change through punitive measures
the state’s supreme power to override fundamental human rights. Make no mistake: even if reformers manage to wedge open some cracks in the state’s monolithic apparatus, Cuba will remain a strictly one-party system. The draft constitution re-inscribes the Cuban Communist Party as the “superior leading force of [Cuban] society and the state.” Cuban socialism and its political and social system remain “irrevocable.” In the economy, the draft charter complements state planning and ownership with some space for domestic and foreign private capital, but these changes stop well short of formally embracing a more genuinely balanced, hybrid regime, such as the market socialist models of China or Vietnam. At the moment, the Communist Party is holding forums to debate the draft constitution across the island. These forums are generating discussions among interested elites, but they are expected to yield only modest fixes to the issues outlined above. Once ratified by the legislature and by public referendum—likely easy hurdles—the new constitution will mainly cement the Castro legacy in constitutional, legal and de facto terms, while also bestowing some political legitimacy upon the post-revolutionary cohort Díaz-Canel now leads. For the many Cubans yearning for higher wages and more consumer goods, there is little relief in sight.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES Havana’s economic and political inertia has left Washington with little room to elicit more progressive reforms. Either the United States can accept Cuba’s reality and find ways of getting along in order to protect its national interests, or it can maintain and perhaps even step up its efforts to pursue regime change through punitive measures. The latter policy, in place for nearly six decades, has demonstrably failed, but it is unfortunately
entrenched in U.S. law, thanks to Congress’ codification of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba in 1996. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has rolled back many of the openings granted by President Obama, has important pro-embargo constituencies in Florida and is unlikely to shift direction any time soon. In effect, the Miami hardliners have won back the initiative from the diverse anti-embargo constituencies of the Obama era. This is probably fine and well with hardliners in Cuba, as it gives them some breathing space to seek better relations with Europe, Russia and China without Washington in the picture. The United States and Cuba still cooperate in some areas, but such exchanges face significant challenges. U.S. tourism to the island, especially cruise ship travel, is showing signs of recovery, after a sharp decrease in 2017 and in the first half of 2018. Bilateral cooperation in the areas of law enforcement, migration, and environmental affairs continues quietly, but depleted staffing at both U.S. and Cuban embassies, in part due to a wave of mysterious health concerns reported by U.S. diplomats in Cuba last year, has hampered basic diplomatic and consular functions. U.S. congressional activity has stalled, with the exception of efforts to lift financial restrictions on agricultural trade. All told, neither the punishing embargo nor anemic U.S. diplomacy is likely to prod Havana towards more ambitious reforms. Domestically, the Díaz-Canel administration will likely split the country along generational lines. For many older Cubans, the new government’s commitment to the principles that guided the Castro era is reassuring. Many middle-aged Cubans will welcome the renewed guarantees of state-sponsored economic security and welfare. Some may also perceive glimmers of a more normal, open and, accessible polity, and will take heart in Díaz-Canel’s support for gradual, carefully monitored openings to foreign investment, the internet, and controlled private enterprise. Cuba’s restless youth, on the other hand, are likely to see only more missed opportunities, whether in a constitutional reform that prioritizes continuity over change or in a president who so far has proven more cheerleader for the status quo than agent of reform. Tragically, Cubans of all stripes, including too many of the best and the brightest, will continue to seek opportunities elsewhere. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
Post-Truth Germany The Chemnitz Attacks and the Crisis of German Democracy 22
Like “fake news” in the United States, the German word Lügenpresse, or lying press, challenges the authority of the media as a democratic institution particularly high, because a violent far right is rising, in a country still troubled by its racist and murderous past. The embrace of a discourse of “alternative facts” signals that Germany has moved far from the role it played during the early days of the refugee crisis, as the exception to the rule of resentment. How did we get here? At the end of August, following the alleged murder of a German citizen by two refugees, a right-wing mob of several thousand people took to the streets in the eastern city of Chemnitz, shouting racist slogans, threatening and chasing refugees (or just about anybody who looked different), and fighting an overwhelmed and outnumbered local police force. The images quickly spread on social media. One video showed a group of a few men first shouting at, and then running after, a man who is seen fleeing across a busy street, avoiding several cars as he speeds along. The German media used the term Hetzjagd, normally applied to the hunting of animals, to describe this scene and others captured during the riots. German Chancellor Angela Merkel used this word, too, in her public statement condemning the violence.
People take part in a march of silence organized by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party and carry German flags and supposed victims of refugee violence on September 2018 ,1 in Chemnitz, Germany. (Getty)
But then something strange happened. When the minister president of the German state of Saxonia, Michael Kretschmer of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), addressed the events in Chemnitz in the state parliament a few days later, he claimed that “there was no mob, there was no chase, there was no pogrom”—directly contradicting not only Merkel but also nearly all of the mainstream press that had reported on the events. The violence, the racist epithets, and the people chanting “We want to kill” were all well documented, not only by eyewitnesses but also on video, as were the scenes of people being threatened and chased. But following Kretschmer’s remarks, a public debate over the use of the word Hetzjagd diverted attention from the clashes in Chemnitz to the way the news was produced and, according to those critical of the term, politicized.
by Georg Diez And if it never happened? Then, of course, nobody is to blame. There is no responsibility, and there are no consequences. The end of a common understanding of what happened is in many ways the end of politics, because to define problems and work on solutions requires common ground. Germany, like the United States, has entered this post-truth hall of mirrors. The stakes are
Like “fake news” in the United States, the German word Lügenpresse, or lying press, challenges the authority of the media as a democratic institution. Right-wing politicians and protesters use the term to discredit the work of journalists covering the most controversial subject of all—migration and refugees—but also any other topic related to what the right calls the “system Merkel.” The attraction of formerly mainstream figures to this
rhetoric is likely political. With the right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) breathing down its neck (and more popular by four percent, according to a recent poll), Kretschmer’s party, the CDU, has been driven rightward. The Christian Social Union (CSU), of Bavaria, is also drifting from conservative to reactionary politics under the cloud of impending losses to rightwing parties in upcoming elections. Accordingly, German interior minister Horst Seehofer of the CSU critized the media coverage of Chemnitz and mused about joining the protests himself if it were not for his political office. But the most radical departure from established protocol came from Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is a part of the secret service. Maassen should by definition not be a political figure. Still, in a highly unusual interview with the tabloid Bild, Maassen aggressively contradicted the media coverage of the riots in Chemnitz. He said that there was no evidence that the video showing people chasing others was authentic, and he went on to suggest that the video had been planted to divert attention from the murder of a German. Maassen, who had earlier faced criticism for alleged ties to the right-wing AfD, had neither consulted with his agency nor obtained any privileged information about the authenticity of the controversial video. Yet the damage was done. Germany discussed the term Hetzjagd. Meanwhile, the press uncovered that neo-Nazis in Chemnitz had attacked, among other places, a Jewish restaurant called Schalom. Not long ago, any one of these incidents—a neo-Nazi mob sporting Hitler salutes, an attack on a Jewish restaurant, attacks on left-wing demonstrators, attacks on refugees—would have been enough to spark an emotional political debate in Germany. But something fundamental seems to have changed, and the fact of conservative politicians showing open sympathy for right-wing positions is just part of this. Perhaps even more troubling is the structural attack on the very notion of a rational discourse governed by rules held in common—among them, that even ideological opponents accept the existence of a verifiable truth, that the press is a respected fourth pillar of democracy, and that there is room for disagreement but not for obvious lies and falsehoods. In the United States, all of these assumptions have been tested since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016. In Europe, this brazen version of politics is reactionary in more than one sense, perpetrated by politicians copying Trump’s tactics but without his open ruthlessness. When the German Bundestag questioned them, both Maassen and interior minister Seehofer only strategically backed down a bit. Maassen kept insisting that he had been misunderstood, and he expressed largely unfounded concerns about left-wing extremism while failing to address the problem of right-wingers terrorizing parts of a German city. The CDU, CSU, and the liberal Free Democratic Party continued to support Maassen at the time,
while the Social Democratic Party, the Greens, and the leftist Die Linke wanted him to step down. What started as a scandal seemed to end in a stalemate. Both scandal and stalemate belong to the new political ethos that took shape in those slightly panicky German late-summer days. The haziness is part of the concept, avoidence replacing argument, confusion replacing confrontation. The disdain for process, parliament, and accountability are a kind of postpolitical politics. During his campaign, Trump claimed he could get away with anything, and his victory seemed to prove him right. Maassen, Seehofer, and Kretschmer seemed to get away with saying that what millions of Germans thought they saw on television and on social media never happened. And what looked like a constitutional crisis, because Merkel could not fire Maassen without firing Seehofer, whom she needed to form her coalition, was actually caused by the man charged with protecting that very constitution. If Maassen wanted to show the feebleness of the democratic process, its institutions, and its politicians, he won. On
People hold a giant banner reading we are the people during a march organised by the right-wing populist Pro Chemnitz movement, on September ,7 2018 in Chemnitz, the flashpoint eastern city that saw protests marred by neo-Nazi violence. (Getty)
Tuesday, he stepped down as the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, but was promoted to State Secretary, the highest ranking bureaucrat in the interior ministry. There was no responsibility, and no consequence: Merkelâ€™s Grand Coalition continues, whatever the price to pay. The incident is a reminder of the countryâ€™s Weimar days, when the state apparatus turned against democracy itself. One way or another, history is always present in this country. It was the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht who wrote in his Buckower Elegien that the people had lost the trust of the government, and then asked if the easiest solution would not be for the government to dissolve the people and elect a new one. This was in 1953, and the country was the late German Democratic Republic. In 2018, in the age of the Internet, it seems more and more that politicians in Germany, as elsewhere, have lost trust in realityâ€” and that rather than changing reality they choose to create a new
In 2018, in the age of the Internet, it seems more and more that politicians in Germany, as elsewhere, have lost trust in reality - and that rather than changing reality they choose to create a new one one. The response to Chemnitz among certain politicians on the center-right shows a confidence that this strategy can work in Germany. For many citizens, recent events have supported the impression that anything, really anything, is possible in German politics. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
The Right Way to Achieve Security in Space The U.S. Needs to Champion International Cooperation by Stewart Patrick Last month, the Pentagon outlined plans for Space Force, U.S. President Donald Trumpâ€™s proposed sixth branch of the U.S.
armed services, charged with protecting American interests in outer space. Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, heralded the report, describing space as a critical war-fighting domain. The United States increasingly relies on
At precisely the moment that space is becoming more crowded and conflict-prone, many of the arrangements for governing it are hurtling toward obsolescence rocket. Many countries have responded to this proliferation of space assets by developing antisatellite weapons. Potential American adversaries have demonstrated their willingness to use such weapons: China used a missile to destroy one of its own satellites in 2007, and Russia pinged a Japanese satellite with a laser in a 2009, in a non-damaging test of its capabilities. But because outer space is not just an arena of interstate conflict, a viable American space strategy cannot fixate simply on achieving national dominance. Space is also a global commons, a domain on which all states rely (to varying degrees), and in which they encounter shared threats that require collective security.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, while aboard the International Space Station, captures a photo of a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico on June ,15 2015. (Reuters)
space capabilities that face emerging threats, Pence noted, and he repeated what Trump had declared in June: “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space.” For months, pundits have debated whether maintaining such dominance requires a Space Force. What these discussions often miss, however, is that space security depends at least as much on international cooperation as it does on national dominance.
A DOMAIN OF SHARED THREATS Space has, in fact, become more crowded, as the Trump administration says. And potential U.S. adversaries are expanding their warfighting capabilities there. As of April, the Union of Concerned Scientists recorded 1,886 active satellites in its online database, an increase of more than a third since 2015. According to one recent report, a thousand small satellites were launched between 2012 and 2017 alone, 104 of them by a single Indian
Among these shared problems is the proliferation of space debris. Spacecraft travel at tremendous speeds—some 17,000 miles an hour in low earth orbit—such that striking even a tiny fragment can cause catastrophic damage. Just last month, the International Space Station sprang a leak, possibly from a collision with a small object, in what has become a minor international incident. Today more than 29,000 known pieces of space junk larger than softballs orbit the earth, along with another 750,000 larger than peas. Incidents such as China’s 2007 antisatellite missile test, which created more than 30,000 pieces of debris, 3,000 of which are now being tracked, have only made the problem worse. According to scientists, runaway debris accumulation, known as Kessler Syndrome, could render orbital space unusable if left unchecked. And debris is just one shared threat. Space weather, which includes cosmic rays and coronal mass ejections, among other phenomena, can damage on satellites and disrupt terrestrial power grids. The more earthbound systems depend on satellites, the greater the potential cost of such events. A solar storm of similar magnitude to the Carrington Event, which wreaked havoc on telegraph systems across Europe and North America in 1859, could cause damages totaling in the trillions of dollars were it to occur today. Such an incident—scientists estimate a probability of up to 12 percent in the next decade—would cause a prolonged global crisis indifferent to national borders. Mitigating these dangers requires that countries work together to further their common interests. Over the decades,
a patchwork of global, regional, and national institutions and initiatives has emerged to facilitate international cooperation in outer space. This cooperation includes the sharing of vital scientific and technical information, as well as enhancing cross-border coordination among national agencies. The International Telecommunication Union, for instance, plays a vital role in managing the placement of satellites in geostationary orbit, which allows them to stay in a fixed position over a point on the Earth’s surface, as well as in regulating radio transmissions to minimize interference. Likewise, the International Space Environment Service collaborates with the World Meteorological Organization and other groups to monitor solar and geomagnetic fluctuations and issue warnings regarding dangerous space weather. The United States is both the leading benefactor and the chief beneficiary of international cooperation in space. The U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center tracks orbital debris by drawing on a global web of ground- and spacebased sensors as well as information shared under numerous bilateral agreements. The center uses the data it collects to help domestic and foreign spacecraft operators avoid collisions. This service is free of charge, and the United States benefits from a tidier and less hazardous space environment. Meanwhile, U.S. partners abroad furnish vital meteorological data and other resources that support American civil and military objectives. Such interdependence makes it unwise and impractical for any one country, including the United States, to attempt to exert perpetual dominance in space.
SUBSTELLAR COOPERATION Since the dawn of the space age, then, the nations of the world have woven a makeshift tapestry of international cooperation. This fabric is increasingly threadbare, however. At precisely the moment that space is becoming more crowded and conflictprone, many of the arrangements for governing it are hurtling toward obsolescence.
Because outer space is not just an arena of interstate conflict, a viable American space strategy cannot fixate simply on achieving national dominance
The Outer Space Treaty (OST), which entered into force in 1967 and remains foundational, has become anachronistic in many respects. Among other provisions, the OST establishes that the exploration and use of space is the “province of all mankind,” prohibits sovereignty claims over space and celestial bodies, and designates states as responsible for national activities there. But it makes no formal demarcation between air and space, lacks a dispute settlement mechanism, is silent on collisions and debris, and offers insufficient guidance on interference with other countries’ space assets. These gaps heighten the potential for conflict in an era of congested orbits and breakneck technological change. At the same time, the treaty’s fundamental principles have been challenged as countries wrestle with the democratization and commercialization of space. The 2015 U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, for example, recognized the right of American citizens to own asteroid and space resources recovered through commercial activity. Some scholars and governments viewed this as skirting the principle of national non-appropriation, violating the spirit if not the letter of law. The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has adopted four treaties subsequent to the OST. The committee’s unwieldy size and consensus-based decision-making, however, have often made for ponderous discussions and decisions that are dead on arrival. For instance, none of the major spacefaring powers have accepted the 1979 Moon Agreement, the last of the major multilateral space treaties, which would have made celestial bodies and their resources the “common heritage of mankind,” a designation with severe legal implications. More recent attempts to reconfigure the rules of the road for space have met with mixed success. Negotiating new multilateral treaties has for the most part been a nonstarter, with both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations blocking joint Russian-Chinese proposals for the Treaty on the Prevention
of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space. From the U.S. perspective, the proposed treaty has many shortcomings. Most important, it focuses on space-based weapons that have yet to materialize, while omitting mention of kinetic, ground-based antisatellite systems that have already wreaked havoc in space. The treaty also fails to define critical concepts, such as “weapons in space” and “the threat or use of force,” and it blurs the line between offensive and defensive weapons systems. The mechanism for enforcing compliance with the treaty’s terms is vague. Meanwhile, the treaty lacks verification measures that allow launch payloads to be inspected, and it does not address the problem of dual use space technologies, which can have both peaceful and military purposes. Finally, any such treaty would need to be negotiated within the consensus-based Committee on Disarmament, notorious for its paralysis. Countries have exhibited a greater willingness to embrace voluntary measures. Several governments have passed regulation compliant with the UN Debris Mitigation Guidelines, adopted via General Assembly resolution in 2007. The guidelines were designed to help curtail debris-generating antisatellite missile tests of the sort that China conducted. Further measures for improving long-term stability and sustainability in outer space have come through the UN’s standing Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence Building Measures. The former, established in 1959 in the wake of Sputnik, today oversees implementation of the five relevant UN treaties: the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue Agreement, the Liability Convention, the Registration Convention, and the Moon Treaty. It serves as the UN’s main repository of scientific and technical expertise, as well as legal analysis, of trends in outer space. The latter, created in 2011 by then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, proposed an array of reforms, ranging from prior notification of space maneuvers to provisions for visits to launch sites, as well as command and control facilities. These are victories for international cooperation, but much work remains to be done. The amount of orbital junk is still increasing, and international cooperation will be necessary both to minimize the generation of new fragments and to remove existing ones. Countries must also work together to prevent harm from adverse space weather. Most importantly, states have a collective interest in curtailing dangerous space arms races, from which everyone stands to lose. Unfortunately, efforts to slow the militarization of space, even through informal agreements, face domestic as well as international headwinds. During the Obama administration, the United States championed a non-binding International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. Among other principles, it would have obliged all parties to refrain from interfering with
It is in the United States’ interest to avoid the unnecessary militarization of space other countries’ space assets, as well as from generating space debris through antisatellite tests on orbiting space objects. Yet even this declaration of principles was too much for the administration’s critics, raising hackles among Republican senators who argued that it would restrict the U.S. military’s ability to defend the United States. John Bolton, who was then at the American Enterprise Institute, made a similar argument in a New York Times op-ed, written with former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, which endorsed perpetual U.S. “primacy” in space. Given Bolton’s current position as Trump’s national security adviser, we are unfortunately unlikely to see the code resurrected any time soon.
A FORCE FOR COLLECTIVE SECURITY? The United States remains the world’s foremost repository of scientific expertise and advanced space technology. As such, the country is an irreplaceable leader and patron of outer space cooperation. Continuing to fulfill this role will require a steadfast commitment to working toward collective rather than unilateral security. Such a commitment requires that out of enlightened selfinterest, the United States avoid the unnecessary militarization of space. At least some Trump officials may be open to such an approach. The administration recently released a welcome directive on space traffic management, for instance, which emphasized the need for international transparency and data sharing to lower collision risks and handle orbital congestion. The president’s National Space Council should further support international norms and initiatives designed to alleviate orbital congestion, share information, build mutual confidence, and resolve disputes, so that space competition remains within peaceful bounds. For this to happen, though, the Trump administration must stop calling and striving for American dominance of space. As a still-emerging domain of human activity, one that is shrinking even as its uses expand, outer space demands forward thinking and a willingness to countenance unorthodox ideas. For the administration, this means setting aside retrograde security notions and averting geopolitical collisions in space. It also means leading a United States that is first in setting rules and promoting international cooperation. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
The Financial Crisis Is Still Empowering Far-Right Populists Why the Effects Haven t Faded 30
According to the authors’ 2015 study, after a financial crisis, the share of the vote going to right-wing parties increases by more than 30 percent those that followed earlier crises—and done more damage.
RISE OF THE RIGHT The crash in 2008 and the subsequent eurozone sovereign debt crisis dealt a severe blow to political systems in the West. Crisis fighting became the new normal. Long-standing two-party systems in France and Spain were swept away. Populist far-right forces emerged from the fringes, sometimes achieving major electoral victories. In 2015, we published a study that compiled data on nearly 100 financial crises and more than 800 national elections in 20 democracies since 1870. We found that far-right parties are the biggest beneficiaries of financial crashes. After a crisis, the share of the vote going to right-wing parties increases by more than 30 percent. We also found that government majorities tend to shrink and governing becomes difficult as more parties and antiestablishment groups get into legislatures. These effects turn up in the wake of financial crises but, crucially, not in normal economic downturns. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the James A. Rhodes Arena on August ,22 2016 in Akron, Ohio. (Getty)
by Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick, and Christoph Trebesch The 2008 financial crisis was devastating to the world economy. Just how devastating is something economists still argue over. It is not easy to add up the costs of bank bailouts, a lost decade of economic growth, spiking public debt, grinding austerity, and surging inequality. But the biggest cost of the crisis might be not economic but political: the populist wave that has swept over the world in the last decade, upending political systems, empowering extremists, and making governance more difficult. Financial crises regularly lead to political polarization and populism, but the recent populist surge has lasted longer than
Why are financial crises so disruptive? To start with, they are manmade disasters. People blame elites for failing to prevent them. It’s often not hard to find policy failures and cronyism among the rich and powerful, so trust in the political system erodes. This opens the door to political entrepreneurs who try to set “the people” against the «ruling class.” The tendency to blame elites after financial crises might suggest that far-left parties would benefit as much as far-right ones. But that doesn’t happen. Our research shows that the far left’s vote share stays about the same in the aftermath of a crisis. It seems that when social groups fear decline and a loss of wealth, they turn to right-wing parties that promise stability and law and order. In the 1930s, for example,
it was the German petit-bourgeoisie that enabled Hitlerâ€™s rise to power. Similarly, the election of U.S. President Donald Trump was decided by the middle and working classes. Right-wing populists are much more willing to exploit cultural cleavages and blame economic problems on foreigners and those who supposedly put the interests of a global elite above those of their fellow citizens. As British Prime Minister Theresa May put it last year, â€œIf you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.â€? The left, by contrast, has traditionally taken an internationalist outlook and usually avoids crude rhetoric against foreigners and minorities. People want to attribute blame, and the right is willing to present scapegoats: immigrants, China, or the European Union. The names change but the playbook remains the same.
THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT Our historical data show that most political upheavals after financial crises have been temporary. After five years, voting patterns usually return to their precrisis status quo, fractionalization within parliaments decreases, and the far right loses its momentum. This time is different. Ten years on, fractionalization, polarization, and far-right voting are all alive and well. The established political system continues to stumble from one shock to another. Even countries that until recently had been immune to far-right politics have started to succumb. Meanwhile in countries where right-wing populism was already strong, its vote share has increased further, allowing populist parties to enter government. In 2014, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won elections in India. In 2015, the right-wing Law and
In the wake of financial crises, government majorities tend to shrink and governing becomes difficult as more parties and antiestablishment groups enter legislatures
Justice Party won in Poland. In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte won the Philippine presidential election and Trump won the U.S. presidential election. And this year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a second term as president of Turkey, Viktor Orban triumphed in Hungary for the third time running, the hard-right Freedom Party joined a governing coalition in Austria, and the rightwing populist Lega Nord did the same in Italy. Never before have so many populists been in power at the same time. Why have politics not returned to normal? Part of the explanation might be that populists are learning. More than ever before, populism has become a tried and tested political strategy. Populist leaders teach one another how to use TV and social media to create polarization and divisions. This is crucial, since a polarized society is the fundamental prerequisite of populist success. They emphasize nationalism, giving a sense of identity to dissatisfied voters. And they use simple language that creates intimacy. Populists have also become better at surviving in
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends his Fidesz party campaign closing rally on April 2018 ,6 in Szekesfehervar, Hungary. (Getty)
power. Many have been reelected multiple times. They cultivate their image as outsiders, even when they come to dominate the political and business worlds. They gradually erode checks and balances and move to take over the media, all in the name of “the people.” They have started adopting more orthodox economic policies, as well. Unlike their free-spending predecessors, most populist leaders now choose business-friendly policies that foster growth and avoid bouts of hyperinflation that could endanger their survival (although there are notable exceptions, such as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro). In short, populists all around the world are following a similar playbook—and it is working. The most important reason for populists’ lasting success, however, is likely structural. The financial crisis of 2008 was a major shock, with more longlasting effects than the average financial crisis. And the crash was just one of a series of disruptions over the past ten years. Politicians have seized on terrorist attacks and surging refugee flows to widen cultural
splits. China and Russia now offer an authoritarian alternative to the Western model of open societies and free markets. Median incomes in the Western world are stagnant and inequality is rising. Lackluster economic performance in many countries has meant that the political trust the financial crisis destroyed has not recovered. It’s hard to say how long the current political instability will last, in part because we don’t yet know enough about how populists perform in office, why they are often reelected, and what makes countries immune to populism. But what is clear is that another financial crisis would do enormous damage. It would likely trigger yet another populist surge, bringing the far right to power in even more countries. Regulators, finance ministers and central bankers should take account of the political risks, not just the economic ones, when overseeing financial markets. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
Did Archaeologists Find the Oldest Drawing Made by Humans? 73,000 Year -Old Piece of Art Discovered in South Africa 34
The markings are not much to look at it. They consist of six relatively straight lines that are intersected by three wavy lines to form a rough crosshatch pattern. But the simple red drawing predates any other known abstract or figurative drawings from Africa, Europe and Indonesia by 30,000 years, according to a report this week in the journal Nature. Francesco d’Errico, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux in France who worked on the study, said the find came as a surprise to the research team. “It adds a new dimension to what these people were doing and reinforces the hypothesis that they had a symbolic culture,” he said. The drawing was discovered as part of the excavation of Blombos Cave, which lies 190 miles east of Cape Town on the southern coast of South Africa. Teeth found in the cave indicate that it was used as a temporary residence by early modern humans as far back as 100,000 years ago. The grindstone was found in sedimentary layers that have been dated to between 77,000 and 73,000 years ago. These layers also contained 67 shell beads, including some that had been colored with ochre. Archaeologists had also found evidence that visitors to the cave were processing ochre to create a liquid pigment and storing it in abalone shells as much as 100,000 years ago. The Blombos Cave drawing with ochre pencil on silcrete stone. Scientists say it's the oldest known example of a drawing made by humans. (Craig Foster)
by Deborah Netburn
However, the drawing still came as a surprise.
In an ancient seaside cave on the South African coast, archaeologists have found what may be the earliest known drawing created by a human.
It was first spotted by Luca Pollarolo, an archaeologist and honorary research fellow at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
This ancient piece of art is about 73,000 years old, its discoverers say. It’s on the smooth, concave side of a grindstone tool that’s only 1.5 inches long, and experiments in a French laboratory suggest it was created with a pointed piece of ochre.
Pollarolo had already examined thousands of flakes pulled from the cave as part of his work to better understand the technology used to produce stone tools. The markings on this particular flake looked odd to his trained eye, so he passed it along to the leaders of the dig — Christopher
Henshilwood and Karen van Niekerk of the University of Bergen in Norway. The researchers’ first step was to determine whether the lines were just part of the stone tool or if they had been put there by humans. Microscopic and chemical analyses confirmed that the lines were chemically different from the rock, and that they were made of ochre. Next, the researchers wanted to know how the ochre lines had gotten onto the rock. Was it painted? Was it drawn? To answer this question, they brushed rocks with ochre paint and drew on rocks with ochre crayons (pieces of ochre that have been sharpened to a point on one end.) It was painstaking work. “It may appear as a fun activity to an outsider, but in reality it is a time-consuming endeavor in which you alternate experiments with a lot of time at the microscope,” D’Errico said. Ultimately, the team determined that the ochre lines were almost certainly made by drawing, not by painting. Finally, the authors wanted to know whether the pattern was deliberately drawn to convey meaning or it was simply the result of processing ochre. Previous work had shown that these ancient people also used ochre as a glue additive and perhaps as a sunscreen. To test this, they tried grinding ochre in a way that would match the pattern on the grindstone, but this produced less than one milligram of ochre powder — hardly worth the effort. This led them to the conclusion that there was not a utilitarian purpose to the lines. Reaction to the study has been mixed among the archaeological community.
Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Australia, said the authors’ claim was premature. “To make this argument they would need to find and date more such artifacts, not just one among several thousand other unmarked stones,” he said. Brumm added that there are other explanations for how the lines could have gotten there. “For example, the red lines could simply be from sharpening an ochre ‘crayon’ on the grindstone,” he said. His colleague Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist and geochemist at Griffith University, shared his skepticism. Although the study authors have
Christopher Henshilwood and Karen van Niekerk were excavating the 73,000 year old layer in the cave when they found the world's oldest drawing. (UiB)
shown that the ochre was applied to the stone on purpose, the reason for it remains unclear, he said. “To me, it fails to demonstrate that the crosshatched patterns were intentionally made by humans as a sign of symbolic representation,” he said.
recognized so far is part of a larger object.”
However, Pat Shipman, a retired professor of anthropology at Penn State, said the authors made a convincing case that the drawing was deliberately made.
This is not the first controversy to originate from Blombos Cave. Researchers are also divided on whether several pieces of engraved ochre demonstrate symbolic thinking by the cave’s ancient inhabitants.
“The hashtag or crosshatched shape often appears in rock art and quite similar shapes have been scratched into pieces of ochre from the same cave,” Shipman said. “Though they have, so far, only the one piece, I would not be surprised if more are discovered since the one they have
Indeed, the researchers report that each red line ends abruptly at the stone’s edge, suggesting that the drawing is a small part of a bigger — and perhaps more complex — pattern.
As excavations at the cave continue, future finds may shed more light on the murky world of ancient art. This article was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.
Climate Change Is a Chronic Condition And Policymakers Need to Respond to It Accordingly By Kate Gordon and Julio Friedmann Last June, dozens of flights were canceled for multiple days at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The culprit? Extreme heat, grounding planes not able to operate at temperatures above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Two months later, trillions of gallons of rain fell on Houston in the space of just a few days. The city’s third “-500year flood” in just three years, the storm damaged more than 200,000 homes. The estimated damage is over 100$ billion. Recovery from
the flood, which displaced nearly 40,000 people, is expected to last for years. Fast-forward to last September, when Idaho battled 23 active wildfires, caused by dry and hot conditions making lightning strikes exceptionally dangerous. Smoke in the air kept children inside for days and cost the state over 20$ million in fire suppression. Nearby Washington and Oregon experienced similar losses. These incidents took place over a few months in the summer and fall of 2017. That’s just one snapshot in time: one could
In 2017 alone, 16 climate-related disasters in the United States caused 1$ billion or more each in damages one-off events but chronic problems, and managing them requires a fundamentally different approach from the way most policymakers currently think about climate change.
CLIMATE CHANGE ACTS LOCAL For many Americans, climate change still seems like an esoteric global issue, too far removed from daily life to rise to the level of urgency. But climate change is not someone else’s problem—it’s a profoundly local issue, with both acute and chronic impacts being felt across the country. The brunt of costs falls on cities and states. Already, climate impacts ranging from extreme heat (Phoenix, Los Angeles) and sea level rise (Miami, Norfolk) to inland flooding (Grand Forks, St. Louis) and warming winters (Minneapolis, Aspen) are taxing state and local governments: in 2017 alone, there were 16 climate-related disasters in the United States that each caused 1$ billion or more in damages. These costs hammer cities in the short term but also mortgage their future, as bondrating agencies begin to downgrade cities based on frequent climate events. The climate analytics group Four Twenty Seven, which recently came up with a set of “climate risk scores” to help investors better understand the specific risks to U.S. cities, notes that after 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, “Moody’s downgraded Port Arthur from A1 to A2 due to its ‘weak liquidity position that is exposed to additional financial obligations from the recent hurricane damage . . . above and beyond the city’s regular scope of operations.’” Many firms are increasingly incorporating climate risk into their municipal credit analyses.
Steve Culver cries with his dog Otis as he talks about what he said was the, ‹most terrifying event in his life,› when Hurricane Harvey blew in and destroyed most of his home while he and his wife took shelter there on August 2017 ,26 in Rockport, Texas.(Getty)
easily point to more recent developments, including Hurricane Florence’s destructive and deadly path through the Carolinas; the wildfires currently devastating wide swaths of central California; or the fact that southern Japan just suffered devastating flooding that drove two million people from their homes and destroyed 10,000 houses. Continuing shifts in climate around the United States and the world are driving up current and future costs, putting new strains on short-term emergency response but also on longterm investments and economic growth. These are no longer
Climate impacts are also causing businesses to relocate and change their models. The nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project, which collects climate risk and carbon emission disclosure information from more than 6,000 companies, has found that over 70 percent of global companies believe physical climate impacts will disrupt their supply chains and are making key investment and location decisions with an eye toward these impacts. Investors and insurers, too, are turning their attention to climate risks as they evaluate the essential resilience of their portfolio companies. Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers, will no longer insure companies that get 30 percent or more of their revenues or power from coal. Similarly, the Church of England’s 16$ billion investment fund will no
longer invest in companies that fail to meet the 2023 terms of the Paris agreement. This will magnify further as the physical threats of climate change become more localized.
THE CHRONIC NATURE OF CLIMATE CHANGE The rising burden faced by local and state governments, companies, supply chains, and communities reminds us of the rise in costs of chronic health-care conditions. Imagine the increase in U.S. climate costs as akin to the increase in U.S. costs of type 2 diabetes, a long-term metabolic disorder caused by too much sugar in the blood and not enough insulin. The symptoms—thirst, drowsiness—seem modest, but the longterm complications from the disease include heart failure, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and occasionally amputation. Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable—it’s caused by overeating, lack of exercise, and too much sugar in the diet. Despite that, epidemiologists project a severe increase in diabetes in the United States over the next decade. From 1990 to 2010, the number of cases has tripled, as has the rate of incidence. Today, 30 million Americans have diabetes and 83 million have prediabetes. Experts predict a 54 percent increase by 2030 to approximately 55 million people, with societal costs of 622$ billion each year. Before chronic diseases such as diabetes had become so widespread, many medical systems, including emergency medical response programs, were traditionally configured in training and operation for acute care. But in 2002, the World Health Organization published a report calling for a shift toward chronic care, noting this structural problem and suggesting specific actions that national and local governments could take to improve care and reduce costs. The country faces the same mismatch between past and present when it comes to dealing with the chronic nature of climate change. Imagine carbon is like sugar, natural carbon uptake (as
Climate change cannot be written off as someone else’s problem—it’s a profoundly local issue, with both acute and chronic impacts being felt across the United States and the world.
in forests and soil) is like insulin, and rapid emissions growth is like overeating. Absent a shift to chronic climate care, society will suffer growing impacts with increasing severity.
THE HEAT IS ON Thanks to advances in climate modeling, we know far more about the physical impacts of climate change on specific regions than we did even five years ago. The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to model climate impacts, spelled out in the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, the bipartisan Risky Business Project (founded by one of the authors, Kate Gordon), and a number of statelevel reports provide a foundation to assess local and regional physical impacts and their potential economic impacts. One of the key model findings is the march of extreme heat across southern and western U.S. states. Over the next several decades, states such as Arizona are expected to see many more days over 95 degrees Fahrenheit, adding up to an additional one to two months each year of these extreme temperatures. This year has also seen extreme heat waves in Canada (where up to 70 people died as a result), Los Angeles (where temperatures surpassed those in Death Valley earlier
Flooding from Hurricane Florence is seen in Lumberton, NC on September ,17 2018. (Getty)
conditioning for longer periods each year has convinced some major chicken producers to think about moving their animal operations north or to invest in more costly poultry-housing designs that can withstand higher temperatures. Heat also affects the ability of humans to do their jobs efficiently and well. Asignificant economic impact on the U.S. economy from unchecked climate change is the decline in labor productivity due to increasing temperatures. This is most evident in industries where workers have to spend hours outside, such as construction, agriculture, and some transportation and manufacturing. Extreme temperatures have already impacted the construction trades in the Southwest, where road repairs are increasingly done at night, leading to high overtime and additional lighting costs. Naturally, industries are busy working to adapt to these conditions. Already a strain of heat-resistant chickens is being developed by the University of Delaware, and the agriculture sector has long relied on genetically modified seeds made to withstand challenging climate conditions. But we need a more consistent, forward-looking strategy to deal with the impacts we know are coming down the pike.
this summer), and Japan (where dozens died and over 22,000 were hospitalized). Increasing heat is a classic example of a chronic climate impact—slow moving, with the most extreme effects in the future. But the impact on regional economies today cannot be ignored. Agriculture suffers the brunt of these effects— commodity crops in southern midwest states such as Missouri and Illinois will see a 15 percent average yield decline by midcentury as temperatures rise. Already major agricultural companies are looking for suppliers in more northern areas, including all the way to Canada, to adjust for warming temperatures farther south. High-value specialty crops such as wine and fruit are even more temperature-sensitive. Eastern Washington State is seeing a boom in vineyards as temperatures climb in California. Almonds, an extremely water-dependent crop, are increasingly threatened by western drought conditions. And in Georgia, nearly 85 percent of the state’s peaches were destroyed after 2017’s warm winter. Animals, too, are heat-sensitive, and managing their temperature is a major business cost. Although it’s possible to cool down mammals such as cows or pigs through constant misting with water, chickens are harder to cool. Providing air
Another chronic effect of climate change is warmer winters. The small U.S. ski towns that host 55 million visitors each year depend on snow for their livelihoods. Last year saw a ten percent decrease in skiers due to low snow conditions and 1$ billion in lost revenues. Aspen, Colorado, one of the wealthiest municipalities in the United States, opened its first soup kitchen last season because of lost revenues. Scientific projections suggest those “low snow” periods are now a chronic condition that will worsen: a recent study indicates that by 2050 there will be a 50 percent decrease in the number of snow days across the country, and all regions will receive less snow than they do today. In these same regions, a warming climate is causing pine bark beetle infestations that have killed enormous numbers of trees. Pine bark beetles and related pests die off in cold winters. When winters are warmer, pests destroy trees, leaving forests devastated. This puts mountain communities at a fire risk. In 2017, over 70,000 wildfires caused more than 12$ billion in damages across ten million acres, mostly in the mountains. The 13 western states had a “very high” combined exposure risk exceeding 49$ billion that encompassed four million homes. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the nation and is hit hardest by warm winters. One example is the shortened season for ice roads, which are used for almost all heavy equipment on the North Slope. In addition to avoiding environmental damage to the tundra, ice roads cost 400,000$ per mile to build—construction that supports both
local workers and industries. Average temperature in Alaska has increased 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, mostly since the mid1970-s. Since that year, the season for ice roads has shortened dramatically—a 50 percent reduction, which translates into approximately 60 fewer days of reduced economic productivity. Climate change affects permanent infrastructure as well, including pipelines and foundations. Melting permafrost, which causes heaving of foundations and settling, is the main culprit. Over 100,000 Alaskan citizens live on permafrost, and 87 communities with roughly 40,000 inhabitants are at risk of permanent damage. Associated costs are expected to add 3$ billion to 6$ billion over the next 20 years, including water and sewage disruptions.
FUTURE FLOODS Flooding is another type of chronic climate condition, both the coastal flooding stemming from sea level rise and the flooding from climate-related storms. On the latter, the experience of the Greater Houston area is instructive. Although the flood damage caused by Hurricane Harvey was unprecedented, Houston has experienced seven episodes of extreme flooding since 2001—including the devastating Tropical Storm Allison, which dropped 40 inches of rain on the city, and the 2016 Tax Day Flood, with over 17 inches of rain, eight fatalities, and the destruction of 700 homes. A shift in thinking to “chronic climate care” can help cities such as Houston recover, regroup, and plan more effectively for the inevitable future floods and other climate events. Some of this involves classic infrastructure investment: culverts can be widened, pumps installed, and impoundment dams built. Other aspects of the shift would be novel, such as installing permeable concrete paving systems, which allow rainwater to infiltrate into the soil over large areas. Today, Houston is beginning to reassess its water impoundments and dams through the lens of chronic-care planning. The city has two upstream impoundments, both built during the 1930s as public works projects. The dams were not designed for such regular extreme weather and are listed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as “extremely high-risk” cases for both seepage and overspilling. Houston and the corps are also studying additional impoundments, levees, dam repairs, and dam improvements under Section 216 of the Water Resources Development Act. Although these proposed actions are not cheap, they are a bargain compared with the 120$ billion to 250$ billion price tag of Hurricane Harvey, much less the cost of the next round of storms. Meanwhile, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has proposed to tighten development rules
to strengthen the city’s flood resilience, including updating the “-500year” floodplain for new construction. He also plans to direct builders to provide more storm-water retention for large parcels in development. These are initial steps, and more may be required, but they reflect the recognition of a new climatic base line that requires different approaches to local governance.
HOW CITIES CAN RESPOND Climate change impacts are now a permanent feature of our world. This means the task of managing them is a permanent and ongoing responsibility for government staff at all levels. There are several steps that cities and states in particular, standing as they do at the frontlines of these climate impacts, can take as they shift climate policies from triage to chronic care.
Volunteer rescuer workers help a woman from her home that was inundated with the flooding of Hurricane Harvey on August ,30 2017 in Port Arthur, Texas. (Getty)
Climate events are no longer oneoff events but chronic problems, and managing them requires a fundamentally different approach from the way most policymakers currently think about climate change. a storm or under extreme heat conditions. They should add options to directly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including carbon dioxide removal and purchasing lowcarbon concrete, steel, and other building materials. Municipalities that lead on resilient and low-carbon city design can use this as a competitive advantage to attract companies, especially those with strong sustainability goals and/or resilience needs. Finally, municipalities should focus on moving financial assets into climatesmart projects, such as resilient development and lowcarbon energy generation, using mechanisms that include municipal “resilience bonds” and city pension funds. Although such financial approaches can be politically tricky, reframing this as a necessary long-term investment in prosperity can build public support.
First, cities and states clearly must acknowledge not only the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also the need to manage the physical impacts of chronic climate change. Cities in particular should commissionclimate risk analysis using available climate science modeling that factors in both acute and chronic climate conditions over several decades. Once this analysis is in hand, cities need to incorporate climate risk considerations into local planning decisions every timethey consider an investment in infrastructure, real estate, or other long-term, place-based assets. They should consider adding staff with relevant expertise and requiring contractors bidding on projects to demonstrate the climate resilience of their design. Cities should also work across departments to move toward decarbonization. Investing in distributed energy systems often has the added advantage of making many cities more resilient, since these systems are less likely to go down in
Already some cities and leaders have begun to act. One example is Tulsa, Oklahoma, where municipal leaders have taken steps to manage chronic flooding, including construction of retention ponds, stringent application of flood maps to development, and relocation of flood-prone homes. This has led to a dramatic reduction in the city’s flood insurance rates. The U.S. Department of Defense has done the same. To maintain readiness and avoid burdens to taxpayers, it assesses how climate change affects not only future threat profiles but infrastructure function and cost. At the Norfolk Naval Station, headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, the Department of Defense and U.S. Navy acknowledge the risks from chronic and increasing sea level risk and have made plans to manage and adapt to tidewater risks over the next ten years. Judicious planning and proactive investments can and will minimize U.S. costs and damages from long-term climate impacts. It’s time to recognize that this is a chronic illness, not a passing cold—and plan accordingly. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
FDA Cracks Down on E-Cigarette Makers An Epidemic of Nicotine Addiction Among Youth by Melissa Healy
purchasing” by retailers and individuals intent on buying vaping products and reselling them to minors.
Responding to an “epidemic of nicotine addiction” among young Americans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced a comprehensive crackdown on e-cigarette manufacturers, directing the industry’s giants to draw up detailed plans for halting sales to minors and threatening to pull a wide range of products, including flavorings that appeal to underage buyers, from an exploding market.
The agency also ordered 12 online retailers to halt their continued marketing of e-liquids resembling kid-friendly food products such as candy and cookies. Although the FDA had acted in May to limit the sale of such products, they were still being offered, with the offending labeling and advertising, by the 12 online retailers, several of whom were also cited for sales to minors.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the agency’s steps the largest coordinated enforcement effort in his agency’s history and said it was prompted by alarming new evidence that e-cigarette use by minors has risen to levels he called “simply not tolerable.” In response to a nationwide undercover investigation of brick-and-mortar and online stores over the summer, the FDA levied civil fines on e-cigarette retailers found to have sold their products to minors and issued more than 1,300 warning letters. What’s more, Gottlieb said the vaping industry appears to have turned a blind eye to the online practice of “straw
The FDA move was greeted with defiance and derision from the vaping industry. “Thousands of small-business vape shops across America do not engage in irresponsible marketing practices and don’t even sell the products being targeted by the FDA with threatening letters,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates for what it calls “sensible regulation.” “Despite this, Commissioner Gottlieb is threatening to shut down all these businesses unless larger manufacturers unilaterally choose to change their marketing practices,” Conley added. “It is absolutely
absurd and a perversion of how regulatory agencies are supposed to approach their work.” Conley called Gottlieb’s initiative “nothing more than a gift to the tobacco industry,” whose stock prices jumped on news of the FDA’s vaping crackdown. Public health groups, on the other hand, said lax regulation was the reason teen vaping became such a problem in the first place. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network called Wednesday’s actions a “necessary first step” but said officials could do much more. “FDA for years has repeatedly missed opportunities to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our children,” said Chris Hansen, the organization’s president. “Clearly the FDA knows who the industry culprits are in this epidemic and as such should exercise its full regulatory authority over these products rather than allow the
E-cigarettes have become the tobacco product most commonly used by American adolescents industry to voluntarily self-correct.” Gottlieb said the new enforcement actions mark the start of a “sustained campaign to monitor, penalize and prevent e-cigarette sales in convenience stores and other retail sites” to minors. He promised, too, that the FDA would be keeping close tabs on manufacturers’ own internet storefronts and distribution practices to detect sales to minors. “The FDA has at its disposal both civil and criminal remedies to address demonstrated violations of the law,” he said.
E-cigarettes have become the tobacco product most commonly used by American adolescents. Their popularity is rising “very sharply,” Gottlieb said: In 2017, more than 2 million middle and high school students acknowledged they were current users of vaping products, according to the Monitoring the Future survey. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that e-cigarettes have become the tobacco product of choice among middle and high school students. In 11.7 ,2017 percent of high-schoolers who participated in the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey said they had vaped a tobacco product within the past month, up from 1.5 percent in 2011. In addition, 3.3 percent of middle school students called themselves current users of e-cigarettes, up from 0.6 percent in 2011. The U.S. market for vaping products has exploded as well. Analysts at Wells Fargo estimated that Americans bought more than 2.3$ billion worth of e-cigarettes between August 2017 and last month, and they expect annual sales to reach nearly 4$ billion this year. Add in other vaping products — including vapor cartridges and related items sold at specialty shops — and analysts say the entire market could be worth 6.6$ billion this year. In a speech at the agency’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., Gottlieb acknowledged that e-cigarettes present a public health conundrum.
In its bid to wean adult smokers from traditional cigarettes, the agency has sought to make a wider range of “reduced risk” tobacco products available to American consumers. Those products include e-cigarettes. At the same time, the FDA has sought to avoid creating a new generation of Americans addicted to those products, or to the nicotine that has served as a powerful hook. On Wednesday, Gottlieb put manufacturers on notice that the agency’s balancing act will lean more heavily on preventing youth addiction. “This may create some obstacles for adults who want to enjoy e-cigarettes,” Gottlieb said. “But in closing the on-ramp for kids, we’re going to have to narrow the on-ramp for adults.” Gottlieb also signaled that his agency is prepared to take more sweeping steps. He gave five e-cigarette manufacturers — the makers of Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL, and Logic vaping products — two months to submit plans to “immediately and substantially reverse these trends.” Failure to comply might prompt the agency to reconsider an earlier decision that gave manufacturers of tobacco products not on the market by August 2016 more time to submit new products to the FDA for premarket review. He also said the agency is “considering the immediate removal … from the market” of e-cigarette flavorings that cater to underage users. “Let me be clear: Everything’s on the table,” said.
The aerosol that e-cigarette users inhale contains volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and other chemicals that may cause cancer, according to the CDC
Juul is the clear leader among e-cigarette brands, with 454$ million in sales over the 12 months ending in February, according to the Wells Fargo report, which cited market data from the research firm Nielsen. Other big players are owned by big tobacco conglomerates; Camel parent British American Tobacco makes Vuse e-cigarettes, and Marlboro parent Altria makes MarkTen e-cigarettes. Collectively, the five industry leaders command
A customer smokes an E-Cigarette at Digital Ciggz on January 2015 ,28 in San Rafael, California. (Getty)
over 97 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes, and Gottlieb took them to task for their response to concerns expressed earlier by the FDA about underage marketing and sales. “They treated them as a public relations challenge,” Gottlieb said. “They’re now on notice.” As part of its effort to turn the tide, the agency launched a new campaign to educate children and teens about the dangers of e-cigarettes. A primary concern for health experts is that kids will become addicted to nicotine and graduate to traditional cigarettes, putting them at risk for lung cancer. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 20 percent of high-schoolers who vaped frequently at the start of the study were smoking cigarettes frequently six months later, and another 12 percent were smoking occasionally. Meanwhile, among students who never vaped, only 2 percent started smoking during the same period of time.
There are other concerns as well. The aerosol that e-cigarette users inhale contains volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and other chemicals that may cause cancer, according to the CDC. Some flavorings contain diacetyl, a compound that can damage airways if inhaled and may cause lung disease. And a 2016 report from the Office of the Surgeon General warned that nicotine could interfere with healthy brain development during adolescence, especially in regions related to attention, learning and impulse control. Gottlieb said the FDA will continue to monitor underage trends and promised to release new data on e-cigarette use by minors in the coming months. Further evidence of rising rates of use would bring stiffer actions, he vowed. “Industry must step up to this problem,” he said. “They must demonstrate they’re truly committed to keeping their products out of the hands of kids.” This article was originally published in the Los Angeles Times