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October 16, 2008
World reacts to final U.S. presidential debate

Though the third and final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama centered largely on domestic policy and U.S. interests, people abroad also have a vested interest in the outcome of November’s election. Martin Savidge speaks with journalists in France, Mexico and Pakistan about the international reaction to last night’s debate.

Below, international bloggers voice their opinions about the debate and the candidates.


Explore Worldfocus partner LinkTV’s “Dear American Voter” project, which encourages citizens from around the world to submit videos about the U.S. elections.

Included are video testimonials from Ghana, Syria, Greece, Denmark, Spain, Italy and Jordan.

Read our previous post on global reactions to the second U.S. presidential debate.

Some comments from international bloggers about the U.S. elections:

Politically Incorrect” blog, Kenya

Watching [the debate], I began nightdreaming about the possibilities it held for African countries . […] What if we started seeing elections as a platform for allowing citizens to decide on what they wanted, rather than using it as an opportunity to bribe, cheat, humiliate, fight, be abusive, or whatever else African leaders are always up to during such times? It is still a dream in Africa that we will achieve the state that [the U.S.] takes for granted, where election campaigns are organized and the battles do not have to involve or bruise the public, where citizens still have a large amount of power, and where presidents (potential) are taken to task about their manifestos.

Mexico Monitor” blog, Mexico

Undocumented immigration remains a political hot potato in the campaign for the U.S. presidency. Neither McCain nor Obama mentioned the issue during their third and final presidential debate. But on more than 20 occasions they did talk about “Joe Plumber,” a name for the generic working man now suffering the consequences of the global financial crisis. During a Facebook chat, a friend told me that she thinks the candidates were really talking about “Jose el Plomero, un migrante indocumentado” — José Plumber, an undocumented Mexican migrant worker who lives in the shadows of the broken U.S. immigration system and is waiting to see if the next U.S. president will be bold enough to propose meaningful immigration reform legislation.

Cas Cas the Explorer” blog, France

Being an American in Paris is an uphill battle—I even speak French pretty well. From the moment I touched down at Charles de Gaulle, politics have remained the focal point of almost every discussion. With three suitcases in tow, my cab driver asked the address of my destination, and after hearing my accent, asked of my origin. After stating, “Etat-Unis”, a glimmer appeared in his eye in the rearview mirror. No questions on “what brings you to Paris” or “How long are you going to be here”. His words were simple, “Obama où McCain?” This scene has been played repeatedly with most interactions between the French and I. Once they know you are American, the only issue of concern becomes the election and the reasoning behind your choice. […] With each upcoming question I am bound to face regarding “Obama où McCain,” I’ll smile and answer, praying that this one conversation might have a domino effect—however slight it may be—so that America can regain the prestige and respect abroad she once had.

Two Chicks Nest” blog, Canada

I’m calling myself out. I’ve lived in Canada for a year and I don’t understand Canadian politics. I follow U.S. politics like it’s my (part time) job, but I barely even notice what’s going on in the country that I am living in. Tsk tsk. Canadians are very interested in U.S. politics. The Canadian news broadcasts the vice presidential debates, for god’s sake! How is it that we have 24-hour news cycles in the U.S., but we barely ever mention anything beyond the U.S. border? Americans, have you heard anything about the Canadian national election that took place yesterday?

Boquete Panama Guide” blog, Panama

I realize that Latin American politics seem remote from the current problems in the U.S. but they are not. There are huge numbers of Latin American voters in the U.S. These immigrants […] have families in Latin America families incuding the Cubans in Miami that know what will happen if Chavez is successful emulating Castro’s Cuba. […] People in all the world are [a]ffected by the U.S. election. I did a totally unscientific poll conducted with people in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Peru and Columbia. The people I spoke with are watching with great interest and 100% of those I chatted with would, if they could, vote for Barack Obama and hope for change, so would I.

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October 16, 2008
Gays seek asylum outside Jamaica

Anti-gay graffiti on a Jamaican wall.

Gays living in Jamaica face difficulty reconciling two parts of themselves—being gay and being Jamaican.

Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica, and considered a sin by church-going Jamaicans. Pastors rail against homosexuality from the pulpit, reggae lyrics glamorize gay killings and sodomy laws make homosexuality punishable by a 10-year prison sentence of hard labor.

A video captures the story of a gay Jamaican police officer and his search for asylum in Canada.

The “Jamaica Views blog” questions whether discrimination is getting worse and suggests that the situation can only improve when churches, schools and society as a whole reform their teachings.

Last May, Jamaica’s prime minister said he would not allow homosexuals into his cabinet. Jamaicans reacted to the prime minister’s public anti-gay declaration.

According to Immigration Equality, a New York-based national organization that works to seek asylum for persecuted gays, each month brings new stories and different versions of the same crimes — murder, attacks, beatings — against gays by Jamaican citizens and police. There has also been little effort by the government to outlaw the “buggery” or sodomy laws.

Jamaica’s intolerance for homosexuals and severe anti-gay record have proven to be grounds for gays to seek asylum in Britain, Canada and the U.S. Gays make up a small percentage of 12,000 asylum cases won in the U.S. every year.

October is LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] month in the U.S. To celebrate, “Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica: LGBT Blog” remembers Brian Williamson, a gay activist and J-FLAG founder, who was murdered in 2004.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Chrysaora under a Creative Commons license.

  • Watch all the Worldfocus In the Shadows video signature series
  • Listen to Worldfocus Radio on LGBT politics and gay asylum
  • For more information on homophobia and HIV in Jamaica, visit The Glass Closet, a multimedia project produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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October 15, 2008
China allows peasants to trade and rent land


AUDIO: Edward Wong of The New York Times reports from Beijing about the impact of land reform on China.


Land in the city of Changshu in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province.

On Sunday, the Communist Party of China passed laws allowing peasants to trade and rent land, though they remain unable to buy or sell it.

Leaders were expected to pass a program that would enable peasants to purchase and sell land, but the issues of purchase and sale have disappeared from public discourse despite earlier coverage. Rumors of disagreement within the Communist Party are circulating.

Some communists argue that “privatization” reforms undercut the party and ultimately strengthen Western capitalism in a country already straddling communist and capitalist systems.

Advocates suggest that the reforms would improve food security and relieve rural poverty.

The “Poligazette” blog writes that new freedoms for China’s villagers are a step in the right direction for the oppressive country.

The “Sinomania” blog writes that reforms are monumental and will “open the door to finally giving rural Chinese what they’ve long[ed] for for centuries — their own piece of China.”

The “China Aid” blog writes about the decision of Hu Jintao — Communist Party general secretary and president of the People’s Republic of China — to support the land reforms despite enormous risk, and argues that the Communist Party is digging its own grave.

China Economic Review’s “Editor’s Journal” writes about the promise of the reforms and their potential effects on the agriculture industry.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user iansand under a Creative Commons license.

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October 15, 2008
Canadians re-elect Conservatives; record low turnout

In Tuesday’s elections in Canada, Stephen Harper’s ruling Conservative Party retained power, but fell short of the parliamentary majority it hoped to gain. Voter turnout was at an all-time low.

Alison Smith, a correspondent with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, speaks with Martin Savidge about the results of the elections, U.S.-Canada relations, Canadian involvement in Afghanistan and Canadian interest in the upcoming U.S. elections.


Canadian bloggers also responded to the results. Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor and the “Umambigously Ambidextrous” both live blogged during the election.

Blogger Matthew Good deplores the apathy of Canadian voters and the low voter turnout.

“Scott’s DiaTribes” blog laments about the results, pointing out that Harper’s victory does not inject confidence into Canadian markets.

Blogger Jerad Gallinger writes about the future of the Liberal Party in Canada.

Despite the losses suffered by liberals, the “Ottawa Watch” says neither party can be written off as dead and muses about future political developments in Canada.

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October 15, 2008
Tech advances rev up across Africa

Africa has the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, with mobile phones accessible to about 65 percent of the African continent. But the percentage of Africans who have access to the Internet hovers below 15 percent.

Worldfocus correspondent Martin Seemungal and producer Yuval Lion report on Africa’s technological advances.

And despite Africa’s limited access to the Internet, bloggers are weighing in on the role of technology around Africa.

The “Geek2Live” blog writes about efforts to speed up Africa’s connection to the World Wide Web.

The “White African” blog discusses why African technology matters, including why Africa is a great place to test technology and gain a competitive edge in world markets.

“ReadWriteWeb” recently completed a three-part series on social media in Africa: an introduction to the African web community, mobile innovations in the continent and the effect of more democratic media on Africa’s social and political landscape (including its role in Zimbabwean elections).

The “AfriGadget” blog cites examples of African ingenuity and invention, including a phone-based security system designed by an 18-year-old Kenyan. “Startup Africa” also provides resources for African entrepreneurs.

YouTube user “bahiaboy” posts a video about the Internet trading platform TradeNet, which provides African farmers with price updates and purchase offers over cell phones, with testimonies from both rural Africans and the platform’s developers.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Esthr under a Creative Commons license.

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October 13, 2008
Sunni-Shiite cyber war escalates

Hackers left this message on Al Arabiya’s Web site.

On Friday, hackers hijacked the Internet domain of a pan-Arab TV station, Al Arabiya (English version).

When online news readers went to Al Arabiya’s Web site, they saw an image of a burning Israeli flag and a warning message.

Al Arabiya still does not have control of its domain and is pursuing legal action in the U.S. to reclaim it. In the meantime, Al Arabiya routed web users from to

This incident is nothing new — a Sunni-Shiite cyber war has been raging for some time.

The online publication “Asharq Alawsat” describes cyber attacks last February.

The blog “Eye Raki” discuses the hacking of some of the most visited Sunni Web sites.

The Jordanian blogger Abbas Hawazin discusses this attack and how it reflects Sunni-Shiite relations.

Al Arabiya posted an article on the attack, and described some of the conversation that has been taking place in online forums.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Darren Hester under a Creative Commons license.

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October 13, 2008
Chinese investment in Africa soars

China invested $4.5 billion in infrastructure projects last year in Africa.

Though the world financial crisis will impact trade between China and Africa, the crisis may also allow China to increase its influence in the country at a time when Western investment in Africa is declining.

Today, a South African navy ship is scheduled to make its first official visit to China, as part of a year-long celebration honoring 10 years of China-South African diplomacy.

China’s investment in Africa has grown exponentially in recent years, with the total value of trade between China and Africa increasing nearly 40 percent every year.

Despite Chinese officials characterizing the relationship as “win-win” proposition, there are questions about the effects of cheap Chinese goods on the African job market.

Recently, British conservative author Peter Hitchens penned a scathing article about China’s exploitation of Africans. He calls the relationship a “slave empire,” saying that Africans fear speaking ill of Chinese businessmen despite producing their raw materials in poor living conditions.

The “Tibet Rights” blog posts a response to Hitchens’ article, calling it hypocritical and reminding readers of the impact of Western intervention in Africa.

Grace Augustine argues on Stanford’s “Social Innovation Blog” that despite China’s claim of reducing poverty in Africa, poverty and inequality are not the same and Africa should be wary of China’s human rights record.

The blog “I have no tribe, I’m Sudanese” writes that China has helped Africa. The blogger defends China against colonization claims and says the relationship is mutually beneficial.

Blogger “Keeplefty” writes that while most reactions to China’s presence in Africa fall under categories of paranoia or praise, their real relationship falls somewhere in between.

American blogger David Mixner urges increased involvement in Africa to compete with China.

The “Windy Harbor” blog writes that the financial crisis may be an opportunity for Africa to more fully engage in the global economy.

As the debate continues, interest in Africa is on the rise elsewhere. The “China Comment” blog predicts that China will face competition from the U.S. and EU in South Africa, where it has deep economic and diplomatic ties. Alex Belida of “Regrets Only” discusses Iran’s interests in Africa, while Pambazuka News examines India’s role in the region.

Following a recent World Bank report [PDF] on China’s essential financing of sub-Saharan African infrastructure, the “African Politics Portal” blog assesses the thoroughness of the study and outlines the benefits and pitfalls of these Chinese investments.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user cogdogblog under a Creative Commons license.

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October 10, 2008
Ahmadinejad denounces atomic agency authority

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has continually blocked United Nations investigations. Iran rejected the UN agency report and denounced the agency’s authority.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks with Martin Savidge about the authority of the IAEA and what Ahmadinejad calls a double standard.


The IAEA aims to ensure safe and secure atomic technology. Although it works closely with United Nations members, the IAEA is an independent international organization.

Recently, the head of the agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said that the IAEA is at a crossroads and needs more funds.

Dr. K. S. Parthasarathy, a former secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, writes about the future of the IAEA

At the blog “Crooks and Liars,” blogger “

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October 8, 2008
Torture is rife in Jordanian prisons

Torture is rampant and routine in Jordan’s prisons, according to a 95-page Human Rights Watch report. Beatings with cables and sticks, flogging and hanging by wrists from metal grates were the most common instances cited.

Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch speaks with Martin Savidge about the alleged torture in Jordanian prisons.


A Jordanian police spokesperson refuted the report.

Jordan is a close U.S. ally and a major recipient of U.S. economic aid. Last month the U.S. gave $479.5 million to Jordan, bringing the aid total to $516.1 million so far this year.

The “group121” blog lists cases of alleged extraordinary rendition to Jordan.

Evidence of torture in prisons has appeared in countries across the globe, and women are particularly at risk.

Watch video evidence of abuse in Egyptian prisons here. Egypt is also a prime benefactor of U.S. economic aid.

Over the summer, accusations of torture surfaced in both Russia and Mexico, leading to riots and public outcry. Blogger Robert Amsterdam posts a video of the Russian police injuring inmates at the Yekaterinaburg Prison Camp.

Accusations of torture at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan emerged last month. The lawsuit in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal — in which Iraqi prisoners were stripped naked, beaten and humiliated — is ongoing, with U.S. defense contractors now claiming immunity. The “A Family in Baghdad” blog posts an account of a former Iraqi prisoner.

The “Humanity Against Crimes” blog examines the discussion of torture in the U.S. presidential election and how America’s torture policies are seen abroad.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user SGT Butler under a Creative Commons license.

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October 8, 2008
World watches McCain, Obama debate


AUDIO: Freelance journalist Wafaa Jamil speaks from Ramallah, West Bank about the lack of Palestinian interest in the U.S. elections. Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor speaks from Beijing about the China’s similar lack of interest and the absence of China as an issue in the U.S. elections.

Argentinians watch the Oct. 2 debate between vice presidential contenders Sarah Palin and Joe Biden in Buenos Aires.

At the second U.S. presidential debate on Oct. 7, candidates John McCain and Barack Obama discussed a range of foreign policy issues including their thoughts on Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and Iran. Bloggers around the world watched and responded.

From Canada, the “Mapleleafweb” blog argues that the focus on the economy in this debate will spill over into the upcoming Canadian election on Oct. 14.

From Latin America, the “VivirLatino” blog writes that Obama won’t acknowledge immigration in the debates despite doing so frequently in Spanish-language ads.

From Iraq, the “Iraq Pundit” blog points to changes in Obama’s position in Iraq based on his discussion of moral obligation during the debate.

“Sean’s Russia Blog” assesses the candidates’ discussion of Russia, calling it “Cold War rhetoric without the Cold War.”

From Palestine, the “Body on the Line” blog writes that the debate ignored Palestine.

And blogger “Jonolan” writes about which candidate would be better for Pakistan, concluding that McCain’s plan for a cooperative effort with the Pakistani government would help the country mitigate violence.

Since the world has a stake in the outcome of the U.S. election, The Economist has created a global electoral college that allows people from all over the world to vote for one of the two main candidates. Currently, Barack Obama has received the majority of the over 25,000 votes that have been cast.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user blmurch under a Creative Commons license.

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Blogwatch summarizes what bloggers and news sources are saying about the international news of the day. We’ll link to informative and bold voices that place the headlines in the context of the global conversation.

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