WASHINGTON â€" The 2016 presidential campaign has been peculiarly disconnected from the real world of problems, crises and governing. It took the catastrophe in Paris to narrow the gap â€" and even a monstrous terrorist attack may not shake the trajectory of a contest that operates within a logic of its own.
The inevitable distance between politicking and the business of running a government is especially wide this year because of the strange configuration of the Republican field. Donald Trump and Ben Carson in particular have detached themselves from anything resembling normal politics, and sometimes from reality itself.
Moreover, the Democratic and Republican primary electorates have such radically different views that the candidates on each side seem to be running for president of quite different countries.
The United States of the Republicans (USR) is a nation in dire trouble, losing influence around the globe and barely recovering from the Great Recession. In the USR, low taxes and smaller government are the key to everything.
The United States of the Democrats (USD) has made substantial progress since President Obama took office but still confronts economic inequality and stagnating wages. In the USD, government needs to do more about problems, including the difficulties of accessing health coverage, child care and a college education.
Yes, and the world outside our borders is seen as a lot more complicated in the USD than in the USR.
Saturday nightâ€™s Democratic debate did nothing to close the USD-USR gap. In political terms, it left the Democratic campaign pretty much where it was before the encounter started. Clinton is still in a commanding position and she seemed ready to be a president who could deal with a crisis.
Her opening comments were more appropriate to the moment than those offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders. After two sentences about Paris, he hustled to the more comfortable ground of a â€œrigged economy.â€
Things did not all go Clintonâ€™s way. Former Maryland governor Martin Oâ€™Malley made his presence felt this time â€" a genuine breakthrough for him. And Sanders was compelling when he scored on the front-runner with his relentless emphasis on reining in Wall Street and his independence from the political generosity of big finance. It is a form of virtuousness Clinton cannot claim.
The Vermont senator pushed Clinton to leave behind a sound bite that was instantly used against her in a Twitter onslaught. Her Wall Street donations, she explained, were tied to her work as a senator helping to rebuild Wall Street after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Voters are unlikely ever to see Wall Street as a beleaguered New York City neighborhood like Belle Harbor or SoHo.
But there was no escaping the horror of Paris, and here, finally, tragedy forced the primary campaign to intersect with the excruciating choices the next president will face. Clinton deserves credit for refusing to use the magic words that conservatives now demand politicians recite, as if merely intoning them would vanquish the enemy.
No, she would not condemn â€œradical Islamâ€ and she cited George W. Bush, not a Democratic habit, for his repeated proclamations that, as he once said, â€œours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith.â€ Her refusal to pander was a presidential moment, whether it hurts her politically or not.
Trump showed little sign of toning things down after the Paris attack. Photo: Nordique
At the same time, the early questions posed by CBS Newsâ€™s John Dickerson signaled a challenge Clinton will confront throughout the campaign: She will have to find a way to be loyal to the policies of the president she served even as she distances herself from certain Obama decisions (on Syria, for example) with which she disagreed.
This necessarily intricate dance led to her roughest point in the debate. It was a sign that the rising importance of foreign policy would be both a blessing to Clinton, because of her experience and toughness, and a potential problem, depending on the course of the battle against the Islamic State over the next year.
Itâ€™s unfortunate that there isnâ€™t a Republican debate coming up soon to force a similar encounter with hard, reality-based questions. Trumpâ€™s claim that French gun control laws made Fridayâ€™s tragedy worse is ludicrous and offensive. And demagoguing the Syrian refugee issue, as Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas are doing, is shameful.
Saturday nightâ€™s brush with what a serious conversation might look like underscored this campaignâ€™s stunningly low level of seriousness, particularly on the Republican side, and how ill-suited it is to the choice that voters must make. If the carnage in Paris does not change this, God help us.
Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.
• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.
• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.
• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.
• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.
• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.
• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.
• Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.
Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.
Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping
"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.
🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.
📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.
⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."
— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."
Why this Sudan coup d'état is different
Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.
Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:
"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.
Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.
True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
471 million euros
Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.
✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! email@example.com!
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