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Geopolitics

The Obama-Romney Mall Poll - A Foreign Hunt For America's Undecided

Time to choose
Time to choose
Cain and Todd Benson
Corine Lesnes

DENVER - Political experts keep telling us there are no undecided voters this time around. Such received wisdom is reason alone to go look for them.

With less than a month left before the U.S. presidential election, statistically there must be at least a handful of undecided voters inside the walls of Cherry Creek, an upscale mall in Denver, Colorado.

But how do you spot undecided voters? Close to the children’s play area you can find soccer moms, the mostly suburban, upper-middle-class women, whom pollsters say are as likely to vote Democrat as they are to vote Republican. Stay-at-home moms love malls: they are cool in the summer, cozy in the winter. In the play area, they can watch over their children, and chat away on their cell phones.

Some shoppers are almost angry when asked if they are undecided. “No way! I know exactly who I’m going to vote for,” says a man without even stopping to answer the question. Those who have made their choice seem exasperated. They are tired of the negative ads, and believe the real issues aren’t being addressed. Most can’t wait for the campaign to be over.

Sometimes they just hate one of the candidates. “I will never, ever, vote for Obama,” says Jane Dellarue, 65, as she repeats the Tea Party positions (death to socialism and taxes, long live the American health-care model).

Republican nominee Mitt Romney doesn’t trigger the same level of hatred, but many people were annoyed with his performance during the first presidential debate; they thought he acted like a “playground bully.” “He flip-flops, always changes his mind and contradicts his own stances,” adds Elisabeth Young, 32. But even Obama supporters admit Romney showed “a human side” during the debate they hadn’t seen before.

In between the Pacsun and Century 21 stores, we meet voters who are less flustered, but just as sure of their choice - two teenagers who look like they skipped school to hold hands in the mall. “Obama,” says the girl. “Obama,” adds the boy. And yes they are old enough to vote, they say.

Three voters, two choices

And then finally, our first undecided voter comes along. Jane Waters, 56, voted for Obama in 2008 and so did her husband. She’s still undecided but her husband “has completely crossed over” to the Republicans. “He even started watching Fox News. I can’t believe it,” she adds. He’s a businessman, she is a consultant. Clearly, they haven’t taken much of a hit with the economic crisis. After watching the October 3 debate, Jane was “impressed” by Romney and thought Obama looked “apathetic.”

But “neither one has a viable plan.” The good news for the Democrats: she is very worried about Republican attacks “against women’s rights.” Statistically, Jane Waters represents Barack Obama’s best chance for reelection.

Undecided voter No. 2 is a man: Brandon Allen, 34, a real-estate consultant. He voted for John McCain in 2008 for what he describes as "personal reasons." This time he wants to vote for the best economic plan. For him, the debate showed Mitt Romney “under a more positive light,” but it didn’t really win him over. “What I want to see is a plan. You have a plan? Show me a plan!”

The problem is that neither candidate wants to unveil his whole plan, for fear of losing their base. Romney cannot say which tax cuts for the rich he would get rid of and the President cannot say what concessions he’s ready to make in order to reduce the deficit.

Scott Anderson, 46, is a yoga teacher and undecided voter No. 3. He chose Obama in 2008, but this year he isn’t excited about his options. “I don’t trust Romney. He has been reincarnated three times already.” But he isn’t too happy with Obama’s first term either, so he doesn’t really want to give him four more years in office.

With just a few weeks left, he doesn’t seem in a hurry to make a decision. “I don’t feel that voting for either one of the candidates is voting for a solution.”

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Geopolitics

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023

Before heading to South Sudan to continue his highly anticipated trip to Africa, the pontiff was in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he delivered a powerful speech, in a country where 40 million Catholics live.

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — You may know the famous Joseph Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Pope Francis still has no military divisions to his name, but he uses his voice, and he does so wisely — sometimes speaking up when no one else would dare.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Belgian Congo, a region plundered and martyred, before and after its independence in 1960), Francis has chosen to speak loudly. Congo is a country with 110 million inhabitants, immensely rich in minerals, but populated by poor people and victims of brutal wars.

That land is essential to the planetary ecosystem, and yet for too long, the world has not seen it for its true value.

The words of this 86-year-old pope, who now moves around in a wheelchair, deserve our attention. He undoubtedly said what a billion Africans are thinking: "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered!"

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