Foreign observers see rancorous US debate; Kuwait swears in new emir; UK, Canada impose sanctions on Lukashenko

The World
President Donald Trump points as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden listens during the first presidential debate, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.

President Donald Trump points as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden listens during the first presidential debate, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Morry Gash/Pool/AP

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Around the globe, observers of US politics noted after last night’s chaotic presidential debate that Americans are enmeshed in a painful and personal contest to elect the next commander-in-chief. An Australian newspaper editor described the mud slinging as “rancor engulfing America” after an evening in which President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden clashed intensely.

While no one had expected a polite exchange over policy differences between the two men, foreign commentators have remarked how the first of three scheduled presidential debates was such a lowlight in US civil discourse, reflecting the underlying tensions and undeniable importance of a hugely consequential vote for the American public on Nov. 3.

International media called the depressing spectacle a “national humiliation” and a “terrible storm.” But while the unprecedented affair didn’t rattle global markets, some analysts cited growing fears of a significant post-election delay — before final results are tabulated — becoming disruptive and even more destabilizing.

Foreign policy was largely missing from the debate, aside from Biden attacking Trump’s trade war with China and Trump accusing Biden’s son Hunter of profiting off overseas consulting work. The incumbent also repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus. In the Middle East, debate watchers took delight in Biden’s use of the Arabic phrase “inshallah,” or God willing, in response to Trump’s dubious pledge to release his latest tax returns.

What The World is following

In Kuwait, the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, was sworn in Wednesday by parliament as the country prepared to lay to rest his half-brother and late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who died on Tuesday. The 91-year-old ruled the country starting in 2006 and had been hospitalized in the US since July. The combination of low oil prices and the coronavirus-induced recession have attenuated the Kuwaiti government’s finances. Sheikh Sabah had been actively trying to end the intra-Gulf dispute that has seen Qatar blockaded by Saudia Arabia and its allies since 2017.

And, the UK and Canada imposed sanctions Tuesday on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and seven other government officials, following a disputed election and ruthless crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the aim was to “put pressure on those responsible for repression.” Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for EU mediation in the Belarus political crisis, after his meeting in Lithuania with opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

From The World

Chinese reactions to Trump and Biden are mixed

Throughout the presidential campaign, China has been a hot topic as each candidate tries to prove how tough he’ll be on the Chinese government. And the Chinese people are paying close attention.

Here are a handful of thoughts about President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden from people in China who shared their views with The World just before Tuesday night's chaotic debate.

US Embassy closure in Iraq would hand Tehran a 'strategic victory,' says former Iraqi amb to UN

When the US Embassy in Baghdad was built in 2009, it became the largest embassy in the world. Now US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is threatening to shut it down. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Wednesday pledged to protect the foreign mission.

Feisal al-Istrabadi, the former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, told The World's Marco Werman that Pompeo's threat comes as a surprise and that al-Kadhimi has taken a number of steps to try to rein in the militias.

"[It] makes the American threat now so ironic that it comes at a time when the government of Iraq is actually doing what it can — which admittedly is not enough," he said.

Bright spot

Sometimes parrots learn swear words from human companions. It's usually funny. But these five gray parrots at Britain's Lincolnshire Wildlife Park took their foul mouths to a whole new level, forcing the zookeeper to split them up. We're sure their reaction was, "F—off!"

In case you missed it

Listen: World passes grim milestone with 1 million coronavirus deaths

President Donald Trump is shown standing at a podium with TV monitoris and US flags behind him.

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sept. 27, 2020.


Carolyn Kaster/AP

It’s been hard to keep up with the devastating human toll of the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we passed yet another grim milestone: 1 million deaths worldwide. And, how who wins the White House in November could impact people and policies across the world. China will almost certainly come up in tonight's first presidential debate and many Chinese are paying close attention. Also, heading to college this fall was never going to be straightforward. But in Manchester, England, over 1,700 college students have found themselves locked into their residence halls because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

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