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What We're Watching: Brazilian ultras reject Bolsonaro, Syrian election "shocker", US baseball is back

What We're Watching: Brazilian ultras reject Bolsonaro, Syrian election "shocker", US baseball is back

The torcidas turn on Bolsonaro: Brazil's football fans, particularly the organized ultras popularly known as the torcidas, are famous around the world for the passion, intensity, insanity, and joy with which they celebrate their country's brand of the beautiful game. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, is widely known for the aggressive patriotism, hyper-masculinity, and man-of-the-people image he works to project. That's why some outside Brazil might assume that Brazil's hardcore football fans are major supporters of Bolsonaro, but that assumption ignores the fault lines particular to Brazil's political and sporting culture. In fact, ultras from some rival teams have joined forces in recent days to denounce Bolsonaro's approach to both crime (too heavy) and COVID-19 (too light). In part, this is because many Brazilian ultras are working-class supporters of the leftist Workers Party, the party that Bolsonaro bitterly opposed and then defeated in the last election. Many more low-income ultras live in favelas in Brazil's major cities, which have been especially hard-hit by the coronavirus.


Syria votes (sort of): Surprising precisely zero people, the Baath Party — led by President Bashar al-Assad — came in first in Syria's legislative elections on Sunday, winning 177 of the 250 seats up for grabs in parliament. In a country at war with itself for almost a decade, it should also come as no shocker that turnout barely reached 33 percent, down from 57 percent just four years ago — despite the government reopening polling stations in former rebel-held areas. The Syrian opposition denounced the result as a "farce" because most displaced people were not able to cast ballots, but that will matter little to the Baath Party, which has kept a stranglehold on power since a 1963 coup. The wider issue now is whether (or not) the ruling party will use its ample parliamentary majority to do something to help ordinary Syrians, who are coming under increasing pressure to make ends meet amid the country's economic implosion. Meanwhile, fresh US sanctions threaten to cut off Syria from some of the international funding it badly needs to rebuild its shattered economy and infrastructure.

US baseball opens in closed ballparks: Seventeen weeks late, Opening Day has finally arrived. It's a red-letter day for American sports as major league baseball opens a coronavirus-abbreviated season, in which cardboard photographs will replace human fans in the stands. Signalista Alex Kliment wants you to know (again) that the New York Mets will win this year's World Series. Signalista Willis Sparks wants you know that Kliment will be wrong about that for the 34th year in a row. There is also an election-year political angle here: Given poor approval numbers for President Trump's handling of the coronavirus, any perceived return to normal summertime life in America can offer a political boost. On the other hand, Washington DC's baseball club opted against having the president or a former baseball star throw out the ceremonial first pitch of their season: instead they chose infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. "Normalcy" remains a relative concept. Play ball.

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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