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Coronavirus in Wuhan; Tanzanian Papayas; Maduro's Strength in Venezuela

With new coronavirus cases emerging in Wuhan, what does that mean for China?

Well, it means that transmission is very much a concern, even in a country that has the most draconian capacity to keep people in place, quarantine and track and surveil them. So, you've got, I guess, 11 new cases already that they're telling us about. Almost certainly more than that. And they're saying that they're going to test 11 million people in Wuhan in the coming six days. Let's see if they're able to actually get that done. But to be very clear, there is no country in the world that would be able to do broader and more immediate mandatory testing than the Chinese. And what they really want to show, I mean, for all of the backlash internationally for being responsible for the original cover up and the pandemic and also for not handling international leadership well, a lot of the mask diplomacy was more about propaganda than really making a difference for countries that needed the help, but at least in terms of getting the economy running again, while the Americans and Europeans are still locked down, the Chinese are not. And indeed, the supply chain is back up. And that really does matter. And that's what they want to focus on, both for domestic purposes and internationally. So, I think that's a big deal. And we're going to see that China will do everything possible to allow for continued confidence in their supply chain. That matters immensely for Xi Jinping's tenure.


What is going on in Tanzania?

There are definitely leaders around the world who make Donald Trump and Boris Johnson's early efforts look downright Churchillian. And Tanzania may well take the cake, where the president has initially locked a bunch of things down, but not any international flights and not local restaurants and bars and perhaps most importantly, not churches. In fact, he said everyone should go to church because coronavirus cannot live in the body of Christ. Now, this is a PhD in chemistry who is actually saying this. He's also saying that there are very few deaths from coronavirus in the country. He's made it illegal for people to talk about it. And there's been all sorts of military and public security who have been seen hiding away dead bodies, taking them away in the middle of the night. Clearly, this is a much bigger problem on the ground in Tanzania than they want to admit. And the people are suffering from a president who is actively promoting fake news. But the best part of the story is that the way that they know that people are faking positives in cases is that he had a papaya and a goat sent to get tested, samples, and they both came back positive. And so, you know, at the very least, do not eat Tanzanian papayas. That's the one piece of news I can definitely take away from this. I'm certainly not going to. I just want to be clear on that.

After the botched invasion of Venezuela, is Maduro's hand strengthened?

No. His economy is a disaster and his oil is worthless. And the people are very unhappy, but they're also exhausted. The Cuban intelligence is still supporting them on the ground. The Americans aren't going to do very much aside from continuing to strangle the economy. Not like we need a lot of help on that front. And the military is with him. So, I mean, I think his hand was strong and his hand is strong. I mean, it's kind of like Assad right now. You've got a bunch of really horrible leaders around the world and it doesn't matter how disastrous the economy is for the people, their ability to rebel against it just isn't there. Now, I mean, if the army in Venezuela starts feeling like they're not getting fed and the economic implosion starts impacting them, well, fear by itself probably isn't going to keep Maduro in place. You do need the military to have oil. But for now, we don't see that changing. And the opposition is in utter disarray.

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.

Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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