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Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

Turkey’s military buildup — As we wrote on Tuesday, Turkey’s President Erdogan has accused the US of working with Syrian Kurds to build a “terror army” near the Syrian-Turkish border. Erdogan fears that Syrian Kurds provide inspiration and tangible support for Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. Turkish troops and tanks are now massing along the border as Erdogan warns that he’ll order an attack on two Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria. What could go wrong?


A New Plan for Nukes — A new US nuclear strategy would allow the US to respond with nuclear weapons against “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” including those in cyberspace. It’s important that US strategy evolve to meet new kinds of threats, but it’s not always easy to determine a cyber-attack’s origin, and the introduction of nuclear weapons into such a murky environment raises lots of troubling risks.

Shinzo Abe’s Day Off — This week, Shinzo Abe, on the final leg of a tour of Eastern Europe, became the first Japanese prime minister to officially visit Bucharest, capital of Romania. But on Monday, Romania’s Prime Minister Mihai Tudose resigned. With no host to greet him on Tuesday, Abe and his wife spent part of the day at the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, which documents life in the Romanian countryside. No word yet on whether they hit the gift shop on the way out.

What We're Ignoring

Carles Puigdemont — The secessionist would-be Catalan president, who remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels, tweeted a video this week that mixed footage of the heavy-handed Spanish police response to Catalonia’s independence referendum with footage of a 1940 meeting between Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco. The video then cuts to footage of current Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Signal has noted the excessive use of force by Spanish police before and during the referendum, but Puigdemont is now going out of his way to relieve us of any responsibility to take him seriously.

Venezuela Talks — Representatives of Venezuela’s government sat down with opposition leaders in the Dominican Republic yesterday. Yes, “meeting jaw to jaw is better than war,” as Winston Churchill once said, but we share the skepticism of the Mexican and Chilean mediators that much will come of talks between two sides that share virtually no common ground.

South Korean hockey fans –North and South Korea have agreed to ask the International Olympic Committee to approve a last-minute plan to allow them to form a unified women’s ice hockey team. But the South Korean team’s coach and conservative newspapers gripe that the plan will cost the South Korean team a shot at a medal. Thousands of South Koreans have signed online petitions to kill the idea. C’mon, folks. It won’t bring peace, but a North-South women’s hockey team would be much more fun and interesting to watch.

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.

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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?

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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.

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