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From Obama To Duterte, Breaking The Mold

In many ways, Barack Obama's election eight years ago as America's first black president broke the mold. But in other ways it has not. Both at home and abroad, there are certain codes and behaviors and best practices that the preternaturally moderate Obama has abided by for the past eight years to ensure a kind of business-as-usual guidance in a complicated world.

Take as the latest example his criticism yesterday of Congress' override of the presidential veto of a bill to give 9/11 victims' families the right to sue the Saudi government. Obama told CNN that "if we eliminate this notion of sovereign immunity, then our men and women in uniform around the world could potentially start seeing ourselves subject to reciprocal laws." It is a precedent that could essentially threaten the longstanding application of international relations and diplomacy that Obama believes keep a dangerous world from slipping toward ever greater dangers.

On the other side of the globe, instead, we now have a case of an unconventional leader who is clearly prepared to break more than just the mold. Since taking office in the Philippines in June, President Rodrigo Duterte is wreaking havoc left and right. He has signaled to Filipino law enforcement and vigilantes that it is OK to kill suspected drug dealers. Meanwhile, a visit today to Vietnam highlights his renegade approach to foreign policy. Not only have his recent harsh words for the U.S. overturned decades of a tight Washington-Manila alliance, but it has unsettled Asian neighbors such as Vietnam that are looking to work with the U.S. to stave off a rising China. Pose these realities to Duterte, and he tends to shrug it off as, well, business as usual.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., in the high-stakes race for the White House, one could pose the voters' choice this way: the Obama mold or the Duterte hammer.


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  • Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi turns 80. Tanti auguri!


The Indian army carried out what an official described as "surgical strikes" in Kashmir, along the disputed border with Pakistan, allegedly to prevent terrorist infiltrations into India, The New Indian Express reports. Pakistan confirmed that two of its soldiers had been killed in an exchange of fire with Indian troops. Tensions between the two rival nations have been high since an attack on Indian soldiers earlier this month killed 18, although Pakistan denied being involved.


There's a "Whole Lotta Shakin" Going On" in today's 57-second shot of history.


Oil prices rose after OPEC countries agreed to modest oil output cuts for the first time since 2008, in a bid to reduce oversupply that's led to falling prices, Reuters reports.


Donald Trump's net worth fell by $800 million over the past year to $3.7 billion, largely due to the "softening" of the New York property market, Forbes reports.


"Ab crack," "thigh gap," "bikini bridge" — these new body trends get thousands of likes on Instagram. Experts say they are terrible for women's health of mind and body.

For German daily Die Welt, Julia Maria Grass writes: "The internet further perpetuates these trends. ‘Only 5 to 10% of girls in the real world actually look like their Instagram ideal,' psychologist Schnebel says. ‘It makes girls feel ugly because they know it's impossible for them to reach their ideal shape with their physical shape.'

Although apps like Instagram ban certain hashtags to contain dangerous body trends, stubborn users find ways around them by spelling words differently. ‘Bulimia' becomes ‘bulima.' ‘Thin' is written as ‘thynn.'"

Read the full article, Extreme Body Images On Instagram Raise Eating Disorder Fears.


NGO Amnesty International says it has "credible evidence" that the Sudanese government has been using chemical weapons over the past eight months in Darfur, killing between 200 and 250 people, including children. According to the investigation, there were about 30 chemical attacks, the "scale and brutality" of which is "hard to put into words," Director of Crisis Research Tirana Hassan said.


Basket Surprise — Jaipur, 1994


Rescue teams in China's eastern Zhejiang province are searching for at least 32 missing people after two landslides provoked by Typhoon Megi, AP reports. At least five people have already been killed in China and Taiwan, due to the storm.



British actor Benedict Cumberbatch joined Pink Floyd member David Gilmour on stage in London last night for a rendition expand=1] of the band's classic song "Comfortably Numb."

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The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*


BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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