Alabama Exit Polls

Alabama elected a Democrat to the US Senate this week. For those unfamiliar with that state’s political tendencies, that’s the equivalent of the US president announcing that Russia is suddenly a key US ally. OK, bad analogy. Just call it a sizable surprise.


There are other reasons that Alabama’s vote made headlines. In a state that President Trump won last year by 28 percentage points, this week’s exit polls show that just 48% of voters approve of his job performance while 48% disapprove. The more startling stat is that just 32% strongly approve while 41% strongly disapprove.

Last year’s presidential vote totals and this year’s Senate race exit polls don’t make for an apples-to-apples comparison, and these numbers don’t prove that anyone in Alabama has changed his/her mind about Trump. Instead, they suggest that different people are turning out to vote in 2017 than cast ballots in 2016. In part, that’s because Alabama Republicans nominated a fantastically awful candidate for Senate.

But in a country where 42% of registered voters didn’t cast a ballot for president last year, elections turn on each side’s ability to motivate its supporters to show up on election day. With control of the House and Senate up for grabs in 2018, Alabama provides another sign that Dems are fired up and Republicans have cause for concern.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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