What We're Watching: Spain's far right surge

Spain's far right surge — The far right Vox party made the biggest gains in Spain's general election Sunday, more than doubling their seat count to 52 (out of 350), to become the third largest party in parliament. For decades, the stigma of Francisco Franco's dictatorship (1939-1975) seemed to insulate Spain from the far-right populism that's swept Europe in recent years. But now Vox's ultra-nationalists will find it easier to shift the national dialogue on key issues like immigration and quashing the Catalan independence movement. The current Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez had hoped that the election – the country's fourth in as many years – would break a political deadlock and strengthen his hand to form a new government. Though Sanchez's Socialists came out on top, they fell short of an absolute majority, losing three parliamentary seats since the last election in April.


A "landmark" ruling in India – India's Supreme Court has ruled that Hindus can build a temple on a hotly disputed holy site in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya. In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed a 16th century mosque on this site, a place that many claim as the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. That act of destruction touched off weeks of sectarian violence that killed hundreds of people. We're watching to see whether the court's ruling ends this long-running dispute, or whether it inflames sectarian tensions further in the world's most populous democracy. Many of India's Muslims fear that the ruling BJP wants to shift the country in a more overtly Hindu nationalist direction.

Worsening violence in Hong Kong — Weekend clashes in Hong Kong saw the most violent escalation in five months of pro-democracy protests, as police shot and critically wounded a 21-year-old protester, while a pro-Chinese activist was doused in gasoline and set on fire by an anti-government mob. Anti-government fervor ran high after a pro-democracy student died on Friday after falling from a rooftop, and violent unrest has now spread to university campuses that had formerly been mostly quiet. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, is clearly losing patience, calling demonstrators "the enemy of the people," but Beijing seems unwilling to risk a broader crackdown just yet. As violence increases, both sides have dug in. We are watching to see how long the deadlock can persist – spoiler: perhaps for a long, long time.

The trouble with counting Kenyans – The Kenyan government's statistics bureau has released new census figures, the first in a decade, setting teeth on edge in a country where political parties are closely aligned with ethnic groups. The census matters because population estimates help determine levels of both political representation and government funding. In a country with a recent history of violently contested elections, some groups are already claiming that the government has manipulated the results to favor some ethnic groups over others. Kenyan officials go door-to-door across each region to collect data, but the information is taken electronically and then dispatched to a central database, fueling mistrust in the integrity of the process.

What We're Ignoring:

Assad's invitation – Good news for anybody pining to be president of Syria: With the country's brutal eight-year civil war grinding to an end, its triumphant strongman, Bashar al-Assad, says that anybody who wants to can run against him in 2021, and that he expects "numerous" challengers at the polls. We're ignoring the temptation to throw our hat in the ring: This is the guy who ran in a "contested" election in 2014 during a hot conflict between his government, ISIS, and rebels seeking to overthrow his family's four-decade iron grip on power – and still netted 89 percent of the vote.

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick joins That Made All the Difference podcast to discuss how his career as a surgeon influenced his work as an educator, administrator and champion of underserved communities, and why he believes we may be on the cusp of the next "golden generation."

Listen to the latest podcast now.

It's been a bad week at the office for President Trump. Not only have coronavirus cases in the US been soaring, but The New York Times' bombshell report alleging that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan has continued to make headlines. While details about the extent of the Russian bounty program — and how long it's been going on for — remain murky, President Trump now finds himself in a massive bind on this issue.

Here are three key questions to consider.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:

Do some of the Facebook's best features, like the newsfeed algorithm or groups, make removing hate speech from the platform impossible?

No, they do not. But what they do do is make it a lot easier for hate speech to spread. A fundamental problem with Facebook are the incentives in the newsfeed algorithm and the structure of groups make it harder for Facebook to remove hate speech.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Yes, still in the middle of coronavirus, but thought I'd give you a couple of my thoughts on Russia. Part of the world that I cut my teeth on as a political scientist, way back in the eighties and nineties. And now Putin is a president for life, or at least he gets to be president until 2036, gets another couple of terms. The constitutional amendments that he reluctantly allowed to be voted on across Russia, passed easily, some 76% approval. And so now both in China and in Russia, term limits get left behind all for the good of the people, of course. So that they can have the leaders that they truly deserve. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here. It's sad to see. It's sad to see that the Americans won the Cold War in part, not just because we had a stronger economy and a stronger military, but actually because our ideas were better.

Because when those living in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block looked at the West, and looked at the United States, they saw that our liberties, they saw that our economy, was something that they aspired to and was actually a much better way of giving opportunities to the average citizen, than their own system afforded. And that helped them to rise up against it.

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Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US politics:

How likely is bipartisan action against Russia in light of Taliban bounty reports?

I think it's probably unlikely. One of the challenges here is that there's some conflict of the intelligence and anything that touches on the issue of President Trump and Russia is extremely toxic for him. Republicans have so far been tolerant of that and willing to stop any new sanctions coming. I think unless the political situation or the allegations get much worse or more obvious, that stalemate probably remains.

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