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NEED TO KNOW:
The conservative prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, wrapped the front pages of Canada’s leading newspapers yesterday with advertising. It was pretty shocking because yesterday was Election Day and it hardly seemed like a journalistically ethical thing to do. Even worse: The ads said nothing but “Voting Liberal Will Cost You.”
Well, so far, the only thing voting Liberal has cost is Harper’s job. In a surprising victory, the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau swept into the prime minister’s office. Trudeau is young, the son of a very famous former prime minister of Canada named Pierre Trudeau. He is only 43 years old.
While Trudeau’s party is called the Liberal Party, it is probably more accurately described as the middle-of-the-road party, or maybe the moderate party. The New Democratic Party is the more progressive of the three major groups. While the New Democratic Party started out strong, it faded in the final weeks of the two-and-half-month campaign season.
Trudeau ran pretty much on an agenda of positivity, rocketing from a distant third to the seat of power. His campaign contrasted well with the agenda of Harper, who has beefed up the country’s security infrastructure, expanded domestic surveillance, and repeatedly warned of threats like terrorism. In the nearly 10 years that Harper was in power, Canadian foreign policy was as hawkish as its ever been.
“This is what positive politics can do. This is what a positive, hopeful vision, and a platform and a team together can make happen,” Trudeau said in his victory speech. He then promised “sunny ways” for all Canadians.
WANT TO KNOW:
You almost wonder if Russian President Vladimir Putin read this story from Agence France-Presse yesterday. It ran in a lot of newspapers and online media. Most versions of the headline read something like, “Despite Russia’s air campaign, battle-weary Syrian troops struggle to regain ground.”
That was yesterday. Today, Russian airstrikes killed 45 people in the northwestern coastal region of Latakia. And it looks like one of them was a prominent rebel commander. The leader was part of a grouping of opposition fighters that receives support from the United States. It’s really not a major leap to say that Russia and the United States are essentially fighting each other in Syria.
Those same airstrikes, of course, as they almost always do, also killed civilians. The fear of bombing from above, whether from the Syrian air force or the Russian air force or the American air force or the Turkish air force or any number of other air forces, is a constant threat for Syrian civilians. It’s a big part of the reason why they’ve been fleeing the country by the millions.
But now fast approaching is another threat: winter. Syrians displaced from their homes, either inside the country or outside the country, are making a mad-dash for possibly friendlier places before the wind, the cold and the snow all set in. Thousands are piling up on the borders of Slovenia, and the tiny country is entirely overwhelmed. It has called in the army to help. Refugees standing face-to-face with soldiers is never a good look.
Slovenia has called out much of the European Union for not taking in more of the millions of people now seeking asylum, saying it is “delusional” to expect individual countries to deal with what amounts to the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The EU is trying to come up with a plan, but the plan mostly involves paying other countries to deal with the problem.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
This is incredible. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is suing his own country at the European Court of Human Rights.
A little reminder: Yanukovych was toppled by popular protests before fleeing to Russia, where he remains today. The former leader was one of the world’s most fabulously corrupt. His mansion, which was ransacked after he left, is a thing of ostentatious, dystopian beauty.
Aside from the extreme corruption and graft, Yanukovych also approved a violent crackdown on peaceful protesters. It is really probably in his best interest to just lay low.