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Here’s my theory of how we’re all being protected by the universe: If Halloween trick-or-treaters hadn’t been deterred by the pandemic, you wouldn’t have all these extra bags of candy corn to absentmindedly eat while you go out of your mind this week. Keep munching while we give you an update on the vote, and on a bird election that’s a lot more fun. Watch some of the best political parody films ever, and try to sum up this year in two words — in Swahili. Check the answer to Monday’s quiz at the end of the email.
As Thursday dawns, Joe Biden is closing in on the electoral votes he needs to become the 46th president of the United States — but the road ahead remains uncertain. Mostly peaceful protests accelerated across the U.S. demanding officials “count every vote” as states process mail-in ballots amid the highest turnout in American history: almost 160 million. With networks calling Michigan and Wisconsin for Biden, he needs 17 more electoral votes to reach the magic number of 270. Arizona (11 electoral votes), Nevada (6), Pennsylvania (20), Georgia (16) and North Carolina (15) are still in play. New ballots substantially narrowed President Donald Trump’s deficit in Arizona overnight, while Biden closed his gap in Georgia. Democrats’ hopes of taking the Senate were crushed with Susan Collins’ victory in Maine, meaning the chance of a 50-50 tie may rest on two runoffs in Georgia in January.
2. It’s a Legal Matter
Biden, expressing confidence that he’ll prevail once all the votes are counted, took steps toward a transition to power Wednesday, giving a speech in Delaware that cast himself as a conciliatory figure in divisive times. “I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did vote for me,” he said. Trump stayed out of sight yesterday, except to tweet about what he saw as problems with the vote count. His campaign has filed lawsuits across the country to challenge various aspects of the counts. Many appear to be long shots at best but Pennsylvania’s could end up back at the Supreme Court, given how the court essentially punted on a preelection dispute over whether the state could accept late-arriving ballots postmarked by Election Day.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedhas joined an illustrious list of Nobel Peace Prize winners to pick guns over roses, ordering a military offensive against the country’s Tigray region after accusing the local government of taking over a military base. This comes just days after militants massacred 54 members of the country’s Amhara minority. (Sources: NYT, Guardian, AP)
2. On the Rise
The U.S. COVID-19 surge continues, with a record 100,000 new cases reported yesterday. American travelers are among those affected by China’s strict new entry rules, which call for increased testing for many nationalities and completely ban British, Philippine and Belgian visitors. (Sources: Atlantic, Reuters)
3. Dynastic Dilemma
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Flávio is following in his father’s political footsteps, currently serving as a senator. But prosecutors have now charged Bolsonaro the younger with embezzlement and money laundering (at least partly through a chocolate shop) after a two-year probe. His dad came to power in 2018 on an anti-corruption platform but backed off the issue once he took office. (Source: FT)
Now, let’s get to the really important election. The bird election.
New Zealand’s yearly vote for its Bird of the Year is underway — and you can participate. Last year’s champion, the hoiho, could technically win again (though no bird ever has in the contest’s 15-year history), but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is reportedly supporting the black petrel. Vote for your top five right here.
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Yes, in the era of Twitter and TikTok, waiting a bit for election results to be declared seems bizarre. But really, it’s a time-honored practice neither unique to America nor rare. And oh yes, those delays lead to frayed nerves elsewhere too.
It came down to two votes after eight months and two recounts. Are you losing count? So did election officials in New Hampshire, who first declared Republican Louis Wyman the winner against Democrat John Durkin in their 1974 Senate race, only to reverse that and announce Durkin the winner by 10 votes after the initial loser sought a fresh count. Now Wyman protested, and a second recount handed him victory by two votes. Durkin petitioned the Democratic-majority Senate, which eventually called for a fresh vote that he won — ten months after the first election.
2. Indonesia, 2019
Giant democracies spread out over thousands of miles take their time. Some, like Indonesia, actually bake that into their formal processes. Last year, 192 million Indonesians voted in presidential elections on April 17. The results were announced more than a month later on May 21 — and that was a day ahead of schedule!
3. Sweden, 2018
You could call it a case of Stockholm Syndrome — with the Scandinavian nation’s democratic future seemingly hostage to a prolonged vote count. But the nation stuck with it, even though it remained in political uncertainty after all votes were finally counted five days after they were cast, a significant delay in a country with the population of North Carolina.
4. Peru, 2016
Delayed vote counts. Disputed ballots. It all played out in the South American nation in June 2016, leaving a country on edge before Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of controversial former President Alberto Fujimori, finally conceded the election after counting dragged on for five days — when it usually just takes just one.
This week, we all need to laugh. And while our current political situation may be absurd, it’s also a little too close to home to bring us actual joy — so we sought out a few great political comedies to help you see the funny side.
This underappreciated 1990s gem starring a teen Kirsten Dunst has a simple premise: What if Deep Throat, who spilled the Watergate beans, was actually two teenage girls. Bonus: Dan Hedaya’s Richard Nixon impression is the best yet committed to celluloid. Sorry, Frank Langella.
2. The Perfect Dictatorship
The broadcaster that had originally agreed to distribute this 2014 parody of political corruption in Mexico reportedly backed out once it got a look at the cut — because it was too real and too savage. The film goes after everyone: left, right, government, media … even the populace.
3. Bob Roberts
Twenty-four years before Donald Trump won the presidency, this comedy about a wealthy celebrity businessman who galvanizes American conservatives with folksy far-right populism might be the perfect film to watch while waiting (and waiting) for election results. Read more.
4. Wonder Boy for President
A South African mockumentary that includes plenty of real protest footage, this film follows the sweet and simple Wonder Boy, who’s groomed to run for office based solely on his likeability. Twist: It’s a love story too.
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Words of the Day
For no relevant reason, we thought you might need a few new ways to call a situation a “total mess.” Can you match the word to the country where you might hear it?
a. Klerezooi b. Despelote c. Kosa Kubwa
1) Kenya 2) Netherlands 3) Argentina
On Monday we asked you what animal has appeared in multiple James Bond films. Andreas P., Lois A., John P., Alice W., Jonathan K., Andrew C., Carter H., Ronnie G., Charlie S,, Jeffrey C., Jim L., Stephen R., Michael C., Michael G., Matt D., Chris N., Gustavo A., John H.B., Paulette W., Cassy T., Richard M., Gary B., Bob L., Bob T., John C., Roxanne M., Ross R., Tracy M., Claudia B., Curt J., Jon T., Doug S., Sarah H., Michael B., James C., Rob M., Jacky T., Rudolph T., Fred P., Earinea W., William D., Lisa D., Lloyd P., Richard M., Martin P., Clarissa C., Larry R., Raoul D. and Joseph A. — wow, you all got that right. It’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s Persian cat. Meow to you all!!