The World Today for November 08, 2016


No Joy Here

Election Day is weird for expatriate Americans.

Observing from abroad, and often spending lots of time explaining American politics to foreign friends and neighbors who don’t necessarily share rosy views of the world’s most powerful country, many expats view the matchup between the unpopular ladder-climbing wife of an ex-president and the divisive, narcissistic New York real-estate-mogul-cum-reality-television-star as a kind of slow-motion train wreck.

That’s because of the undignified tone and coarse rhetoric, the accusations of just about everything, the outbreaks of violence and most of all, the questioning of the integrity of Elections 2016, they say.

“Our leading candidates are giving the world an impression of corruption and racism,” said Steven Kass, 30, an Illinois resident who lives in Abu Dhabi, in an interview with CNBC. “That is not who we are, and I don’t feel proud.”

But Kass needn’t feel helpless. The 5.7 to 9 million Americans living abroad – federal agencies keep different estimates – could play a crucial role in this election.

Only 15 percent of Americans living abroad voted in 2012, Mashable reported. USA Today suggested that many expats might be disinclined to vote in presidential elections because candidates rarely address the issue they care about most: America’s policy of requiring citizens living abroad to pay income taxes – other industrialized countries don’t tax income earned abroad.

But this year around 95 percent of US expats are mailing in their votes. The vast majority are opting for Clinton, according to TransferWise, a money wiring company that surveyed its customers.

It’s not a surprise that expats would be more receptive to the ex-Secretary of State and Democratic nominee’s message of inclusiveness and openness to the world.

But the Guardian noted that Americans abroad – in this case, military families especially – were crucial to helping Republican George W. Bush best Al Gore in 2000. In 2008, expats also helped Democrat Al Franken win his Minnesota Senate seat by around 300 votes, Mashable said.

Even at the low end of the estimated numbers of Americans living overseas, expats would elect seven members to the US House of Representatives, an amount equivalent to Alabama, Colorado and Minnesota, if they were their own state.

That’s real power.

“The day may come when presidential candidates make campaign stops in the 7th arrondissement or Roppongi Hills,” the Economist opined, referring to neighborhoods in Paris and Tokyo.

The chairman of Democrats Abroad Australia, Todd St Vrain, told the Guardian that he’s been working overtime to get his American friends to cast absentee ballots. He was “nervously optimistic” that Clinton would win.

“I think people are distressed and tired of a very long election year that has been very negative and divisive,” St Vrain told the British newspaper.

Others say they almost don’t care who wins anymore – they just want this over.

“The world watches us – our elections are important to the Europeans, to the Asians, to those in the Middle East, and also people where I am in Africa,” said one American who works in development in West Africa and who has seen violence and corruptions in play in elections on the continent. “People say to me, ‘we have elections coming up in the region – what kind of example are you setting? We look to you.'”

“It’s embarrassing, I don’t know how to answer,” she added. “And most of all, it’s sad.”


No Do-over

Beijing upped the ante in its fight against rebellious democracy activists in Hong Kong: After widespread protests against its move to “interpret” Hong Kong’s Basic Law were squashed, China ruled on Monday that two newly elected Hong Kong legislators who used their oath-taking ceremony to make a statement in favor of the city’s independence won’t be allowed to retake their oaths, NPR reported.

The move, which bars democracy activists Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, 30, and Yau Wai-ching, 25 from taking their elected positions, is likely to result in further protests this week – as many Hong Kong residents see it as a violation of the “one country, two systems” policy that was supposed to protect the city’s autonomy after it rejoined China in 1997.

“Hong Kong will become even more vibrant on the political front. You could easily see Umbrella Movement, Part 2,” warned Hong Kong legislator Claudia Mo, referring to the pro-democracy movement that first arose in 2014.

Quitting Clean

Ukraine’s battle to root out graft took a hit Monday, as the politician brought in to clean up the country’s image resigned and accused the president of supporting corruption.

Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, said he was quitting because the government had blocked his efforts to stop graft at every turn, the New York Times reported.

A bitter opponent of Russia, Saakashvili was brought in as part of a broader modernization effort that has seen several other of its top proponents resign in disgust. In Odessa, he’d tried to put an end to bribery in the customs service by opening a new service center, but government officials who’d enriched themselves through the system blocked his efforts, he said.

His new customs office was never completed, for example, because the money allocated for its refurbishment was stolen.

Stopping such hijinks was once seen as crucial to proving the legitimacy of Ukraine’s pro-Western government.

French Revolution

“Liberty, equality, fraternity,” was the slogan of the French Revolution. But equality has long proved elusive – at least where the country’s pay stubs are concerned. So a second revolution is in order, some women say.

To make their point, they borrowed a page from feminist outfits in Iceland: French feminists called for the country’s women to go on strike at 4:34pm and seven seconds on Monday – the moment when they’d technically begin working for free, since they earn 15-20 percent less than men, according to the Financial Times.

Staff at some of Paris’s most high-profile political and cultural offices stopped work in solidarity with the protest, and with presidential elections coming next year, many politicians also expressed support, the Guardian noted.

However, the crowd paled in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of protesters who took to the streets this year to protest against the Socialist government’s labor reforms, even though experts say at current rates the wage gap won’t disappear until 2186 – some 400 years after the first cries for “egalité.”


Remember, Remember

On Nov. 5, tens of thousands of Britons paraded through the streets of Lewes, England with larger-than-life floats, burning iconography and innumerable fireworks to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night.

The holiday marks the anniversary of the capture of its namesake, a militant revolutionary whose stockpile of explosives was discovered just before a planned attack on the British Parliament in 1605. He and other co-conspirators sought to overthrow the Protestant King James I in the name of Catholicism.

At first a celebration of Protestantism memorialized by nursery rhymes calling on Britons to “Remember, remember/ The fifth of November,” Guy Fawkes Night has since taken on an anti-establishment character, where effigies of past and modern-day political and religious figures are set afire.

Taking place only days before the 2016 US presidential elections, Donald Trump was naturally up for roast.

Parade attendees blew up more than one float featuring the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, including one in which a cowboy-like Trump rode a bull draped with the American flag, a parody of Trump’s infamous machismo.

Today, Fawkes’ face can be seen everywhere – his countenance, popularized by the 2005 dystopian thriller “V for Vendetta,” has become an anarchist symbol for the hacktivist group “Anonymous.

Take your own look at the parade here.

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