AMERICA’S SILLY SEASON

AMERICA’S SILLY SEASON

It happens in every democracy. Just before elections, public officials and their backers make wild promises and wacky accusations in a last-bid attempt to swing the vote’s outcome. In the United States, this is called “Silly Season.”


Next Tuesday, voters across the US will choose among candidates for 35 of 100 Senate seats, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 36 of 50 state governorships, and many other local posts. Representatives of both parties are now producing plenty of sound and fury, signifying not much of substance. But as he so often does, President Trump is dominating the conversation. He’s made two pledges in the past few days, both on immigration, that deserve a closer look.

First, Trump has promised an executive order to end so-called birthright citizenshipin the United States. Today, any person born in the US is considered a US citizen, a principle embedded in the US Constitution since 1868. This was the result of legislative battles following the US Civil War to ensure that former slaves could not be denied citizenship. In addition, contrary to claims by Trump, the US is one of dozens of countries that enshrine this principle in law.

No president has the power to change this. Only by amending the Constitution’s 14thAmendment, a process that requires a vote by two-thirds of members of each house of Congress or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures, can this be done.

Second, in response to a group of Central American migrants making their way north toward the US, Trump has said he will send up to 15,000 US soldiers to the border. That he can do. But US federal law prevents the US military from enforcing the law on American soil.

That means US soldiers can’t arrest immigrants, seize property, or take any direct action to prevent them from crossing the border. They can support National Guard personnel by fixing their equipment, helping them build concrete barriers, and maintaining their vehicles.

Trump can issue his order on citizenship, but US courts will strike it down. The troops can pose for photos at the border, but they won’t be repelling any immigrant “invasion.” Trump is making these promises, because he wants to ensure as many of his supporters as possible will turn out to vote for his party next Tuesday.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

India's rape problem: Hundreds of protesters have flocked to the streets of New Delhi for four days straight after a 9-year old girl was raped and murdered in a small village outside the capital while going to fetch water for her family. Some demonstrators burned effigies of India's PM Narendra Modi, saying that the government has not done enough — or anything, really — to address the country's abysmal rape problem: there were more than 32,000 rapes recorded in 2019, certainly a vast undercount given the stigma associated with reporting sexual assaults in India. The scourge of sexual violence against women and girls in India was brought to light in 2012 when a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and murdered while traveling on a bus in the nation's capital, prompting international outrage. Four men have been arrested in connection with this week's attack, though they have not been charged. The city of New Delhi, meanwhile, has ordered an inquiry to probe events surrounding the young girl's death, though Indians who have been sounding the alarm on violence against women for decades aren't expecting much to come of it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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20,200: As the super contagious delta variant continues to spread, Thailand is now a COVID hotspot, recording more than 20,200 new COVID cases Wednesday, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began. Authorities imposed new restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces as the vaccine rollout remains sluggish; just 5.8 percent of Thailand's 66 million people are fully vaccinated.

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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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