The World Today for November 10, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

Shock in Mexico, Smiles in Moscow

Americans weren’t the only ones shocked on Wednesday when it became clear that New York real estate mogul and reality television show star Donald Trump was going to be president of the United States.

“A civilized and democratic world will have to once again confront EVIL,” said a tweet by Mexican historian Enrique Krauze, a Trump critic quoted in USA Today. “Once again, with blood, sweat and tears, it will be defeated.”

Krauze was making a none-too-veiled comparison between Trump and fascism. Trump, of course, referred to Mexican migrants as rapists and criminals on the campaign trail, an arguably Hitleresque scapegoating of a vulnerable minority for the economic struggles of white working class families in the US.

Some might think that comparison is going too far. But the sober editor of the New Yorker made it, too.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appeared to have similar concerns in mind.

“In the aftermath of a hard-fought and often divisive campaign, it is worth recalling and reaffirming that the unity in diversity of the United States is one of the country’s greatest strengths,” said Ban in a statement to Al Jazeera.

But those cheering Trump’s victory often didn’t share the same sentiments.

In Israel, officials applauded Trump precisely because he would not empower Palestinians.

“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett told the Jerusalem Post. “This is the position of the president-elect.”

In contrast, Hillary Clinton presumably would have followed President Barack Obama’s policy of pushing Israel to come to an agreement with the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Cuba announced it would hold five days of nationwide military exercises to prepare its “troops and population to counter a range of enemy action,” the country’s Ministry of Defense announced in government-run newspaper Granma on Wednesday.

The country’s leaders fear Trump will reverse the country’s opening, the New York Times reported.

The prospect of Trump rejiggering US foreign policy led world leaders to call on Trump to remember America’s responsibilities.

“NATO’s security guarantee is a treaty commitment and all allies have made a solemn commitment — a solemn commitment — to defend each other,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the New York Times.

Trump has said that if he were president, the US might not fight for NATO allies who have not been spending sufficiently on their defense.

Accordingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Trump and said Moscow was prepared to restore full diplomatic ties with the US. Those ties have frayed following Russia’s interventions in Ukraine and Syria.

Writing in CNN, Edward Lucas said Trump’s win was akin to a coup for Putin.

“Russia has long sought a game changer,” wrote Lucas, a former Moscow bureau chief for The Economist.

Russia has repeatedly challenged international rules written in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, Lucas said, testing NATO and the West’s willingness to stand up to its aggressions, giving asylum to traitor/whistleblower Edward Snowden and hacking into the Democratic Party’s databases.

“It met little penalty for breaking those rules,” wrote Lucas. “Now it faces a US president who does not believe in them either. Game and set to Putin.”

WANT TO KNOW

Scratch That

The Philippines will not be scrapping its military alliance with the United States after all – or so it appears.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the continuation of military exercises with the US on Wednesday despite his previous threats to expel US troops from the Philippines and pledge his allegiance to Beijing, the Associated Press reported.

However, the number of drills will be reduced and the exercises will not include mock assaults.

In what may soon also prove to be a common occurrence in the Oval Office, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other security officials explained to the president at a Cabinet meeting on Monday how the Philippines benefits from the annual maneuvers.

Duterte also allowed the government to proceed with a 2014 deal to station US troops at five designated Philippine military camps, along with their warships and planes.

Another Domino

The US elections may not be the only vote to put a smile on Vladimir Putin’s face this week. In Estonia, too, a no-confidence vote has raised the possibility that a traditionally pro-Russian party may come to power.

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas lost the vote 63-28 on Wednesday after his junior coalition partners deserted his center-right Reform Party, Reuters reported.

According to local media, the Social Democrat party has begun talks for a possible new coalition with the traditionally pro-Russia Center Party.

Previously considered untouchable by Estonia’s other political players, the Center Party has emerged as a potential coalition partner following the ousting of long-time party chairman Edgar Savisaar, who was openly pro-Moscow, the news agency said.

Roivas has lost support over domestic issues, rather than foreign policy. But amid concerns over Donald Trump’s possible actions next year, the waffling of a staunch NATO ally that has been sharply critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea has some ominous overtones.

Afghan Girl, Again

The famous green-eyed Afghan girl – now grown up – received a warm welcome from the president of her homeland after she was deported from Pakistan.

Sharbat Gula, a refugee who became famous after her photograph was published on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985 and once again after the photographer tracked her down in 2002, was arrested by the Pakistani authorities two weeks ago on charges of obtaining false identity documents, the New York Times reported.

She obtained those documents – like many other refugees – so as to avoid being forcibly returned to Afghanistan. So her deportation has once again made her the face of a broader humanitarian problem – the forced return hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees and migrants from Pakistan, as well as Iran and Europe.

This time, though, she’s a 44-year-old mother of several children – who are now strangers in their own homeland.

DISCOVERIES

Defying Gravity

Absentee ballots make their way back to their home districts every four years from some pretty remote places in the world.

But none are quite as remote as the final frontier.

The day before the US presidential elections, astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Kate Rubins beamed down their digital absentee ballots straight to their federal election bureaus from their current posting at the International Space Station (ISS).

Address given? “Low-Earth orbit,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The process begins about a year ahead of their launch into orbit, at which time astronauts notify officials of the election in which they’ll be participating. A ballot request arrives six months before Election Day.

Johnson Space Center in Houston handles the delivery of the ballot. They send up a digital version of the traditional absentee ballot, which the zero-gravity voters then sign and send directly to their respective electoral authorities.

“It’s very incredible that we’re able to vote from up here,” Rubins said in an interview for NASA’s weekly ISS update. “It’s incredibly important for us to vote in all of the elections.”

Voting from space is apparently nothing new – David Wolf became the first American to do so in 1997 from the Russian Mir Space Station.

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