The World Today for November 01, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

Hearts and Minds

Moldova is shaping up to become the new Ukraine.

The tiny country cleaved from Romania by the Soviet Union after World War II has long been the stage for post-Cold War tensions between East and West.

Currently, Russian troops support the breakaway Transnistria region in the country’s south, an arrangement not unlike the situation in Georgia and Ukraine, where ethnic Russian minorities look to the Kremlin to protect them from the perceived threat of governments that have nominally sloughed off Moscow’s yoke.

Now it appears as if President Vladimir Putin might have won a battle in the war for the hearts and minds of Moldovans.

With nearly all the ballots counted, Pro-Putin presidential candidate Igor Dodon won 48.5 percent, according to early election results released on Monday, topping his rival, former World Bank official Maia Sandu, by more than 10 points, according to the BBC.

However, Dodon failed to win the 51 percent majority needed to avoid a run-off, meaning Moldova will likely hold a second vote on Nov. 13 to determine who will lead the tiny country.

Dodon has not been shy about his plans. In an interview with the Daily Beast, he shamelessly said he wanted to be “a dictatorial leader, the same as Putin.”

The man knows how to appeal to his constituents.

Moldova is Europe’s poorest country. Like in other former communist states, the fall of the Berlin Wall did not herald a chicken in every pot. Rather, it brought the collapse of the economy, political chaos, international isolation, an upsurge in ill health and an exodus of the young and well-educated to Western Europe – where they were demonized for taking jobs that Britons, Germans and others didn’t want.

The United States and the European Union largely stood by as things went downhill. Today, many Moldovans look around and don’t particularly care if their country is a democracy or not. They certainly don’t want to replicate the Ukrainian experience of pursuing Western-style freedoms and getting civil war.

“More than ever Moldova needs a president who represents all and doesn’t divide citizens of the country into supporters and opponents of integration in the European Union,” 64-year-old pensioner Alexandra Sveichina told Reuters. “The new president should reject geopolitics completely and focus on improving the lives of simple people.”

Turnout for the first round of elections was only around 48 percent, so despite his early lead Dodon’s success is not yet assured.

It’s possible that his win in the first round polls has been a protest a la France – where voters often support the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front in the first round of voting to scare mainstream candidates into taking their concerns seriously.

Still, Sandu was not too convincing in her assurances that greater turnout among young voters will help her defeat Dodon when they square off again.

Dodon was more confident when he told the BBC: “Our victory is inevitable.”

WANT TO KNOW

A President, Finally

The seemingly interminable US presidential elections have nothing on Lebanon – it’s been striving to fill the vacant post of president for more than two years.

The Lebanese parliament finally came up with a solution on Monday. But few in Washington are likely to be too happy about their selection – a president who is close to Hezbollah and backed by Iran, USA Today reports.

Edging out rivals backed by US ally Saudi Arabia, 81-year-old Michel Aoun received the support of 83 out of 127 members of parliament in a vote that will likely push Lebanon further toward Iran, according to analysts. However, Saad Hariri, a pro-Western and Saudi-oriented politician, is expected to become prime minister in exchange for endorsing Aoun when his own bid for the presidency failed to garner the necessary votes.

“It’s a power-sharing system,” USA Today quoted Salem as saying. “In a way, the status quo will continue.”

Even so, the United States is reserving judgment. “Let’s see what decisions he makes, what kind of leadership he exudes as president,” said US State Department Spokesman John Kirby.

Walls and Bans

A Donald Trump-like policy is on the anvil in Australia.

The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to introduce a bill to ban asylum seekers who try to enter Australia by boat from ever setting foot in the country – regardless of where they eventually settle and gain citizenship.

“It is a critically important strong message to send to people smugglers,” the New York Times quoted Turnbull as saying. “They must know that the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler.”

The proposed law, which is set to be introduced when Parliament reopens next week, has already faced harsh criticism from human rights organizations and Turnbull’s political rivals.

Pointing out that many refugees on Manus Island and Nauru would be prevented from seeing relatives who are already in Australia, Australian Greens party Senator Richard Di Natale said, “It is barbaric. It’s cruel. It’s shameful.”

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Boko Haram is not the only evil to plague Nigeria.

Workers with Human Rights Watch documented 43 alleged cases of “sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation” of women and girls fleeing the Islamist militant group in July. Their tormentors? Police officers and soldiers charged with their rescue.

Following the publication of the HRW report – which a police spokesman rejected as false – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement Monday that he is ordering an investigation into the allegations, Reuters reported.

The women and girls were housed at seven camps for people displaced by Boko Haram’s seven-year-old insurgency, according to the rights agency. Four people told HRW they had been drugged and raped, while 37 others said they had been coerced into sex through false promises of marriage and material and financial assistance.

DISCOVERIES

Cold as Ice

Russian scientists have uncovered a long-forgotten relic of World War II atop the world: A secret Nazi military base in the Arctic.

The base, codenamed “Schatzgraber” or “Treasure Hunter,” was stationed on the island of Alexandra Land some 1,000 kilometers from the North Pole. It was used primarily as a strategic weather station for Hitler’s Nazi regime beginning in 1942 after the invasion of Russia.

More than 70 years after base attendees fled the outpost after being poisoned by raw polar bear meat, scientists have unearthed over 500 relics under the rock and ice of Alexandra Land, including rusted war-era munitions and seemingly well-preserved documents, the Daily Mail reports.

The outpost’s weather readings helped Nazi troops engage in military operations and navigate prime transportation routes in the Arctic. Scientists also believe the site served as a launch pad for discovering ancient artifacts in the icy deep.

Thus, the name “Treasure Hunter.”

Though internationally contested during the Cold War for the region’s mineral-rich deposits, the Nazi ghost base exclusively occupied the island for decades.

But it seems new inhabitants may soon be repopulating Alexandra Land. The Russian Federation, which claims the island as its own, is purportedly breaking ground on a new permanent military base on the site.

Click here for a peak at the lost artifacts of the Nazi station.

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