The role of the public library has evolved over time. As we move online at an even faster rate, knowledge, entertainment and opportunities for education and employment are found on the internet. Those living in well-connected, affluent places may have come to take internet access for granted. But there is a digital divide in the U.S. that has left people at a disadvantage – particularly since the arrival of COVID-19.
Finding ways to overcome that divide in a sustainable, community-led way could help bring the benefits of the internet to those who need it most. One solution is to use technologies such as TV white space to facilitate wireless broadband – as Microsoft's Airband Initiative is doing. To read more about Microsoft's work with public libraries, visit Microsoft On The Issues.
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.
<p><strong>Trump: Is this as good as it gets?</strong> If Donald Trump's election in 2016 was supposed to dramatically improve the Russia-US relationship, then you're very disappointed. None of the <a href="https://2009-2017.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/ukrainerussia/index.htm" target="_blank">Obama-era sanctions</a> (over Ukraine or human rights) has been lifted – and in fact the Trump Administration has <em><a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/09/25/on-the-record-the-u-s-administrations-actions-on-russia/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">expanded sanctions</a></em> against your officials, companies, and cronies. What's more, Washington has, over your repeated objections, walked out of <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/read/is-the-u-s-inf-or-out" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">one major arms control treaty</a> that was important to you, while <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-start-of-the-end-for-arms-control" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_self">another</a> hangs by a thread with just days until the US election. </p><p>On the other hand, you love how Donald Trump sees the world. For him, US alliances are based on political and financial transactions rather than values. Trump's Washington is far less interested in playing global policeman or haranguing you about human rights and civil society. This is a world in which Russia can punch above its weight. Plus, Trump's toxic effect on an already deeply polarized American society has been a delight for you: just desserts for an America that once — obnoxiously, in your view — styled itself as a model of democracy. </p><p><strong>Joe Biden: the perks of predictability?</strong> </p><p>Joe Biden, meanwhile, has already <a href="https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-election-2020-joe-biden-campaigns-voting-d52427a53ee53993b14526e77c848e86" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">promised</a> to make you pay for election meddling— though it's not quite clear how. But even beyond that, you're not excited about a Biden administration that would shore up ties with European allies, reaffirm the US commitment to NATO, or restart efforts to break the stalemate in eastern Ukraine (you like your conflicts frozen, not stirred.) And while Washington will always be reluctant to impose crippling sanctions on your oil sector or sovereign debt — the costs would probably be too high for energy consumers and banks on both sides of the Atlantic — you could certainly see fresh US sanctions on new energy projects that are important to you. </p><p>But there'd be some upside too. As a more traditional supporter of US alliances and international agreements, Biden has signaled he'd want to rejoin the Iran Nuclear deal -- which you and the other European signatories still see as the best way to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons -- and he'd almost certainly sit down with you to renegotiate those strategic arms control treaties. </p><p>But perhaps most of all, Biden would be a much more predictable leader. Unlike the barely controlled chaos of Trump's foreign policy you'd at least know where you stand with a Biden administration. Statements and policies would be cleared and vetted and credible, in all the normal ways. (You'd no longer have your spooks watch Sean Hannity for foreign policy clues.) </p><p>In other words, you might not <em>like</em> Biden's policies, but you would at least have a clearer picture of <em>what they are</em>. Then <em>you </em>could quickly reclaim your title as world's most unpredictable leader of a great power! </p><p><strong>Then again... </strong>You know you can't shape the election outcome, and you'll be prepared to deal with whoever wins. Your <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/putin-rejects-trump-s-criticism-hunter-biden-s-business-n1244731" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">recent slap-down</a> of Trump's unsubstantiated corruption allegations about Hunter Biden show that you're looking at the polls and hedging your bets. </p><p>So maybe, in the end, you don't care that much who wins. You're rooting for chaos, the American nightmare of a close election that pushes protesters into the streets. After all, anything that claws down the drapes of American democracy is a good outcome for you. </p><p>You'll be up early next Wednesday. </p>
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October 27, 2020
Less than a week out from Election Day, 66 million Americans have already cast their ballots, and many of those are people who are voting "early" for the first time because of the pandemic. In fact, the early vote total alone this year is already equal to nearly half of all ballots cast in the 2016 general election, suggesting that 2020 turnout could reach historic levels. Most important, however, is how things are playing out in key battleground states where the outcome of the US election will be determined. In Texas, for instance, a huge surge in early voting by Democrats this year has raised the possibility that a state which has been won by Republican candidates since 1976 could now be up for grabs. Here we take a look at early voting in battleground states in 2020 as compared to 2016.
In a national referendum on Sunday, Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new constitution. But, why are people in this oasis of political stability and steady economic growth in South America willing to undo the bedrock of the system that has allowed Chile to prosper for so long?
<p><strong>The back story.</strong> The current charter dates from forty years ago, when Chile was still ruled by despot General Augusto Pinochet. It was approved in a 1980 national plebiscite which the opposition says was <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1980/09/12/pinochet-wins-overwhelming-vote-on-new-constitution/750660cc-4fa3-4962-8720-9c4bddb2b595/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">rigged</a>.</p><p>Drafted largely by US-educated Chilean neoliberal economists, the Pinochet-era constitution gave a huge role to the private sector in state affairs. Schools, pensions and healthcare were all partially privatized. Chile soon became the most business-friendly South American nation, and its accumulated GDP expanded by an astounding <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?locations=CL%5D" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">800 percent</a> from 1990 to 2018.</p><p>However, the 1980 charter largely <a href="https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2020/10/22/chiles-momentous-referendum-on-its-constitution" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">concentrated power</a> in the hands of Santiago's political and business elite, who prospered handsomely while the rest of the country got left behind. Over time, the stark disparity bred strong resentment among working-class Chileans fed up with substandard public healthcare and education, students who can't afford rising tuition fees, the elderly who barely get by on meager public pensions, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/16/world/americas/chile-mapuche-constitution.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">indigenous people</a>, who account for 9 percent of the population yet have no cultural or land rights.</p><p><strong>The four-cent spark for it all.</strong> A year ago, the residents of Santiago <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/what-were-watching-unfare-protests-in-chile" target="_self">took to the streets</a> to reject a $0.04 fare hike for the capital's metro rail system. It was an <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/26/anger-in-chile-as-ally-of-president-says-rights-abuses-necessary" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">explosion of anger</a> that caught conservative President Sebastián Piñera by surprise. One of the main demands of the marches — some of which turned violent — was a new constitution.</p><p>Piñera, backed into a corner, agreed to hold a referendum, and a year later, three quarters of Chileans voted "yes" to rewriting the country's charter. They also supported electing a constituent assembly in April, which will set to work on a draft that could be ready for popular approval by 2022.</p><p><strong>The region is watching.</strong> For decades Chile has been an <a href="https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/chile-island-stability-south-america" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">outlier in South America</a>, boasting political stability and steady economic growth in a region long mired in conflict and economic crises. But now that this unequal prosperity has, ultimately, come at a clear political cost, the country's next steps will be closely scrutinized.</p><p>Proponents of the referendum envision a new charter that will enshrine more <a href="https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2020/09/18/chile-health-care-reform/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">basic rights</a> for all Chileans (especially free higher education and healthcare, as well as affordable housing and transportation), limit the role of the private sector, and expand public welfare to create a more equal society. They argue that while Chile's economy has been cruising for decades, growth has not trickled down to the majority of the people. (In 2018, the income inequality gap between the top and bottom 10 percent was <a href="https://www.oecd.org/chile/chile-should-use-upturn-to-address-low-productivity-and-high-inequality.htm" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">65 percent higher</a> than the average among the 37 OECD member countries — and that was before COVID-19.)</p><p>Although the reforms enjoy widespread support among Chileans, opponents say that implementing a robust social safety net could stifle the country's economic prospects, and open up Chile to the political and economic upheavals that have plagued neighbors like <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/argentina-macri-had-a-dream-its-fading-fast?share_id=4558156" target="_self">Argentina</a>.</p><p><strong>Looking ahead.</strong> After decades as a regional model for political stability and economic growth, Chile has discovered it can no longer maintain both. With <a href="https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2020/10/22/chiles-momentous-referendum-on-its-constitution" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">such high stakes</a>, will the new constitution will help the country's leaders find ways to maintain economic success while ensuring greater equity for the 99 percent, or will this end up being a permanent tradeoff?</p>
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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:
One week before the US election. What do other world leaders want to happen?
Well, I mean, let's face it. Outside the United States, most of the world's leaders would prefer to see the back of Trump. An America first policy was not exactly made for non-Americans. That was not the intended demographic audience. Trump doesn't really care. In fact, to a degree, it's kind of a selling point that a lot of foreign leaders don't want Trump. It's showing that Trump is strong in negotiations and indeed is doing better for the American people.
That's largely BS, but occasionally it's true. I mean, his willingness to use American power to force the Mexican government to actually tighten up on Mexico's Southern border and stop immigration from coming through. AMLO would have much rather that not have happened, but the fact that it did was an America first policy, that rebounded to the benefits of the United States. And there are other examples of that. But generally speaking, it would be better for the US long-term, and for the world, if we had more harmonious, smoother relations with other countries around the world, certainly pretty much all the Europeans would much rather see Trump lose. The United Kingdom is the significant exception given the nature of Brexit, and the fact that Trump has been in favor of that, like being called Mr. Brexit by five or six Brits or however many did.
<p>The Hungarians certainly prefer Trump. The Polish government prefers Trump. Pretty much, everyone else would rather have Biden in. In the Middle East, the Saudis are worried that they're not going to get the same level of interest support that they've gotten under Biden. I would say most of the other Gulf Arabs are actually more comfortable with a more stable relationship, frankly, speaking with a lot of them, the Emirates, the Omanis, the Qataris, I think they're all kind of fine with Biden, even though Biden clearly would be moving more towards transition on energy. But if that means no more support for fracking in the US, if you're an energy producer outside the United States, you kind of like that. So that's interesting.</p><p>The Japanese are more comfortable with Biden. There's no question there. And interestingly, the Russians prefer Trump, the Iranians prefer Biden. The Chinese are conflicted. The economic camp in China thinks that Trump is much more dangerous for them. Short-term they'd rather see normalization. They think Biden will be a little bit softer and easier to deal with, but certainly will be more predictable. The hardliners, the Wolf Warriors, the national security types, they actually would prefer Trump because they think that Trump is more volatile and blows up US multilateral architecture. He leaves the World Health Organization, he leaves Paris Climate Accord, and he left the TPP that Obama couldn't get done.</p><p>All of that makes the Chinese look less irresponsible, doesn't make them look maybe more responsible, makes them look less irresponsible, and they generally like that. They see that as longer term providing more opportunity. So, it is truly conflicted in China right now. But on balance, you'll hear a sigh of relief of Biden wins. The first major summitry with the US and other countries will feel like a honeymoon. It won't last that long because structurally there are lots of reasons why the Americans don't want to be the world policeman, or the architect of global trade, or certainly the cheerleader for global values.</p><p>And even though Biden may say nicer things that sound more consensus oriented and multilateral, those constraints, which happened before Trump, happened during Trump, will happen after Trump. Let's remember just how many leaders were admonishing Obama for America's leading from behind strategy. That was when Biden was VP. That doesn't go away. In fact, Biden will find himself more constrained given just how much will be required to rebuild the American economy, the American working and middle-class, on the back of a very deep recession and the pandemic.</p><p><strong>Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed. What does that mean for America going forward? </strong></p><p>Well, it means a more conservative court. Obviously, it means a more conservative federal judiciary generally after four years of strong additions from the Republican party, especially because a lot of Obama's nominees were blocked when the Republicans controlled the Senate at the end of the Obama administration.</p><p>So, everyone's saying, "How come Obama left all of those positions open?" Well, because he couldn't get them through. So, it's been a fair swing across the judiciary towards the conservative. And it would take a long time, even if the Democrats were to take the Senate, which is certainly plausible, even likely right now. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is correct in saying that that is going to be a win that will take years to unwind. That does reflect a threat to Joe Biden's policy agenda. It gives private businesses new avenues for challenging regulations, reversing legal precedents that form the basis of the regulatory state that we have, or have had, in the United States. There's also greater potential for democratic initiatives on things like climate change, on voting rights, on healthcare, that could potentially be overturned by the courts, more conservative courts across the board, not least of which of course is potential confrontation around the voting of this election.</p><p>One reason you wanted this done as soon as possible was not just because the conservatives now control the Senate, but also even now, as opposed to lame duck, because if it's close, this is going to get contested. And a lot of these are going to go through the courts. So ACB is significant indeed, and no surprise, the Republicans did everything they could to get her through on a party line vote with the exception of Susan Collins from Maine, but no Democrats voting in her favor. First time in 150 years that you've had a Supreme court nominee with not a single member of support from the minority party. Goes to show just how divided the United States has become. This is pretty unprecedented in modern times in terms of the level of polarization in the United States right now.</p><p><strong>Is there a bigger story at play with all that is going on in the former Soviet republics? </strong></p><p>Kyrgyz Republic, the president is ousted. In Belarus, we've got massive demonstrations all the time. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, and we have this fighting. Really, I think you want to focus on the fact that you had 15 new countries in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed that, with the exception of the Baltic States, really had very limited experience with governance before. They had been nominally autonomous and had their Republican ministerial attributes in the Soviet Union, but they didn't govern, they didn't have autonomy, and they certainly didn't have rule of law. So, creating those from broadcloth is hard, and it's particularly hard when you have all of these ethnographic time bombs that were set up back when Stalin was Commissar of Nationalities specifically to make it harder to unwind the Soviet Union.</p><p>Moving people and drawing border boundaries that make it clear that, "Oh, here's an enclave of Tatars, and here's an enclave of Bashkirs, and here's an enclave of Russians and Crimean Tatars, and others that are inside the territory of other nationalities." What I used to call matryoshka nationalism, after the Russian nesting dolls. And as soon as you open one up, the one underneath is pushing and trying to pop up. That's exactly what's happening in the [foreign language 00:08:56]. I mean, historically there've been periods of time when Armenians controlled that territory, when Azeris controlled that territory, under Soviet times it was given to Azerbaijan, but it was autonomous for the Armenians, and there was major fighting. As the Soviet Union was starting to collapse, then the Armenians took it over, but the hundred thousand plus Azeris were left homeless and very unhappy, displaced, and obviously this isn't going to get fixed until we have negotiated settlements. Crimea, a very similar situation. Southeast Ukraine.</p><p>In the case of Belarus, it's just a really bad government that's been in place for decades now. It's kleptocratic, they don't care about their people, and coronavirus made it even worse. So I think it's a combination of people getting angry, of the economics being more challenging in this global time of a serious downturn, it's bad and weak governance, it's poor individuals at the top of the system that don't really care and aren't legitimate in the eyes of their people, and it's very serious, deeply entrenched ethnographic governance problems that were set up to be problems, and now they are emerging as problems.</p><p>So, it's complicated. It's not one size fits all, and it's still going to take a long time before this stuff gets fixed. But in the Baltic States, where there are large numbers of Russians in those populations, in Lithuania, and particularly in Latvia and Estonia, but those governments work pretty well because they had had a reasonable time of self-governance before World War II, and they were able to align much more quickly with the European Union and with NATO. They have the institutional connections and they have the political legitimacy that the other post-Soviet republics, now independent states, largely do not have. And that makes them a lot more brittle, makes them a lot more susceptible to domestic instability and international conflict.</p>
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