The World Today for November 02, 2020

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An International Election

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has sent observers to monitor the US presidential elections on Tuesday, Nov. 3. OSCE officials said they would look into concerns about the Postal Service, the coronavirus and public trust in the process, the Washington Post reported. The group has been watching US elections since 2002 but it’s not usually worried about the state of things in the world’s oldest democracy.

That concern is shared around the world.

The world is closely watching whether President Donald Trump wins a second term, balks and raises legal questions over a supposed loss or accepts defeat and exits the world stage as the American head of state, David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, argued in the Canadian magazine MacLean’s.

Many around the world are hoping for the third option, especially many traditionally close US allies.

For example, many Germans believe Trump is a xenophobic authoritarian. That depiction, right or wrong, makes Germans worried that the US has forgotten its respect for human rights and values.

“For postwar Germany, the United States was savior, protector and liberal democratic model,” wrote New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who was born in England and grew up in Europe. “Now, Germans, in shock, speak of the ‘American catastrophe.’”

In June, for example, the respected German weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, featured a portrait of the president in the Oval Office holding a match while Washington, DC burned outside his window.

It’s a sentiment that resonates across Western Europe: In surveys, Europeans place less hope of Trump doing the “right thing regarding global affairs” than Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the Pew Research Center.

Moreover, where there was once respect and awe, there’s pity: “European attitudes to Americans are shifting from envy to compassion,” wrote Simon Kuper of the Financial Times in an article called, “Why Europeans no longer dream of America.”

The past four years have also spurred a move toward less dependence on the US, analysts say.

“Trump symbolizes that there is a United States upon which we cannot rely,” said Nathalie Tocci, an adviser to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

European Union leaders certainly hope Trump doesn’t win another term because he will cement many of the changes he has made to the Atlantic alliance (NATO), which have undermined confidence in the US’s commitment to protect Western Europe from Russian or other aggression, Politico reported.

If Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins, European leaders are also looking to get some things out of the new leader, CNN reported, like a recommitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and a reversal of Trump’s decision to World Health Organization funding.

Those abroad who have argued for the benefits of free trade are sincerely hoping Trump loses, too. That’s one reason why Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is concerned about the election, reported Bloomberg. Instability in American politics and trade policy harms his country’s deep and close ties to American businesses and consumers. Meanwhile, insults and attacks by Trump on Trudeau have led a majority of Canadians to support Biden.

And while there is a détente with Mexico’s leader, on the streets, ordinary Mexicans want a Biden victory. Over the weekend, a small group of protesters in Mexico burned effigies of Donald Trump and urged Americans to reject him at the ballot box on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, a Mexican governor called on Mexican-Americans to vote for Biden.

Trump’s standing with key allies in Asia was high before the pandemic – it plunged in South Korea and Japan this year.

South Korea tends to see the country in a positive light, and that was especially true in this administration because of the president’s talks with North Korea, Kang Won-taek, a professor at Seoul National University, told the Washington Post. “The euphoria is gone,” Kang said, pointing to a lack of progress in peace talks with Pyongyang and Trump’s heavy-handed approach to relations with Seoul.

Iran presumably would prefer Biden to win, not least because he was vice president when American diplomats reached a nuclear deal with the mullahs in Tehran, an agreement Trump pulled the US out of.

And while Arab leaders such as Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi mostly favor a Trump-win, the Arab street is more favorable to Biden, reported the Washington Times. That’s because many in Egypt and other repressive regimes prefer American presidents who bring up human rights issues and concerns to their counterparts.

“We are disappointed not just with Trump, we fear the shrinking role America plays in defending free speech, promoting women’s equality and emphasizing development along with security concerns,” said Ahmed Samih, director of an Egyptian human rights organization.

A recent YouGov poll found that in 18 Middle Eastern and North African countries, local support was more than three times as much for Biden than Trump.

Trump or Biden, one thing is certain: It will not just be Americans anxiously awaiting the results of the US elections.

If you missed our coverage on international support for US President Donald Trump in Part I of our coverage on US elections abroad, click here.



Pushing a Makeover

Shops and businesses across Indian-controlled Kashmir shut down over the weekend to protest a recent law that allows Indians to buy land in the Muslim-majority region, the Associated Press reported.

Last week, the Indian government passed a bill that amended existing laws governing local land rights and also abolished land reform measures dating to the 1950s that redistributed large patches of land to landless farmers.

Separatist group and pro-India politicians in the region accused India of putting the region’s land up for sale. Now, many Kashmiris fear that the move is part of India’s project to give the Muslim-majority region a demographic makeover.

Last year, India’s Hindu-nationalist government scrapped Kashmir’s special status and separate constitution and removed inherited protections on lands and jobs.

The central government has also implemented new laws that have angered many of the region’s inhabitants, who demand complete independence or unification with Pakistan. Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but both nations claim the region in its entirety.

For decades, rebels have been fighting against Indian rule, which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government security forces.


Red Lightning

More than 100,000 people protested in Warsaw over the weekend against a high court verdict all but banning abortions in the largest demonstrations seen in the country since the Solidarity movement’s mass gatherings that brought down communism in the 1980s.

Protesters carrying signs displaying a red lightning bolt – which has become the symbol of the movement – denounced last month’s ruling as another attempt by the governing Law and Justice party to erode Poland’s freedoms in the post-communist era, the New York Times reported.

The court found that abortions in cases of fetal defects were unconstitutional but said that abortions in cases of rape, incest and those threatening a women’s life were still legal.

Still, while the focal point of the protests is the ruling, protesters themselves say it’s becoming about much more.

“I’m here because my sense of helplessness has reached its peak,” Anna Rabczuk, who attended the protests, told the newspaper. “I feel unimportant, I feel less and less like a Pole and I feel really sad about that.”

The rallies also come amid surging coronavirus infections. Critics say the ruling’s timing was aimed to distract the public from the government’s failure to prepare for the new wave of infections.

Meanwhile, ruling party leader and deputy prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has accused protesters of trying to “destroy Poland and end the history of the Polish nation.”

At the same time, the government, nervous over the sheer scale of the growing protest movement, is backtracking. President Andrzej Duda said he was open to compromise.


A Victory, a Travesty

Tanzanian President John Magufuli was re-elected for a second, five-year term over the weekend, following general elections that were marred by allegations of irregularities, Reuters reported.

Magufuli secured 84 percent of the vote, defeating his rival Tindu Lissu, who received 13 percent.

Magufuli promised to work with his rivals following the landslide win but Lissu’s party and another opposition politician called the elections a “travesty.” The two leaders rejected the results, calling for protests and new polls.

The US embassy, meanwhile, suggested that the polls were marred by widespread irregularities, including the use of violence against unarmed civilians, pre-checked ballots and the detention of opposition officials.

Nicknamed the “Bulldozer,” Magufuli has been praised for his anti-corruption fight and big-impact infrastructure projects.

His critics, however, accuse him of intolerance and authoritarianism: Magufuli’s administration has severely cracked down on dissent and forced the closure of some media outlets in Tanzania.


The Warnings in Color

Autumn is a time of splendor, framed by vibrant hues as the trees begin to embrace winter.

This magical spectacle, however, is now being threatened by human-driven climate change, the Washington Post reported.

Scientists say that introduced pests, invasive species and warming climates are causing immediate alterations in tree species around North America.

Plant ecophysiologist Howard Neufeld noted that invasive insects arriving via imported lumber or packing materials could change entire landscapes in a short time.

One example is the hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny bug that has been destroying Eastern hemlocks since the 1980s.

“They can take out trees, and if other trees come in that are different colors, that can have a dramatic effect,” Neufeld said, who goes by the moniker “Fall Color Guy” as he issues foliage color reports for the Appalachian State University.

Warming temperatures, meanwhile, are also causing trees to change their colors earlier or faster, while some species are being threatened by droughts and invasive plant species.

In 2008, a study found that Vermont’s iconic sugar maple trees – known for its maple syrup – are migrating upslope to cooler territories, including Canada, as the temperatures rise.

Neufeld said that color connoisseurs shouldn’t worry about less colorful trees in the next few decades but should nevertheless be prepared for changes.

“I don’t think we have to worry in the immediate future that we won’t be able to see fall colors,” he said. “We’ll just see different fall colors. And maybe at a different time.”

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 9,207,364 (+0.88%)
  2. India: 8,229,313 (+0.55%)
  3. Brazil: 5,545,705 (+0.18%)
  4. Russia: 1,642,665 (+1.11%)
  5. France: 1,458,999 (+3.28%)
  6. Spain: 1,185,678 (+0.00%)**
  7. Argentina: 1,173,533 (+0.57%)
  8. Colombia: 1,082,767 (+0.83%)
  9. UK: 1,038,054 (+2.29%)
  10. Mexico: 929,392 (+0.48%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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