Final presidential debate spotlights foreign policy; Pompeo to meet Armenian, Azeri officials; Nigerian president angers protesters

Oct 23, 2020

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Thursday night’s presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., focused extensively on foreign policy topics. But the substance was often lacking as Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden painted each other’s ideas in broad brush strokes. Biden accused Trump of cozying up to dictatorial regimes, and Trump attempted to smear his opponent by mentioning unverified and dubious corruption allegations.

While the tone of the evening was more civil and restrained than was their first matchup two weeks ago in Cleveland in a night filled with constant interruptions, Thursday's political discussion still saw the two men harp on personal themes and ad hominem insults. Two open questions were mentioned repeatedly: Hunter Biden’s alleged misdeeds in Ukraine and Trump’s Chinese bank account.

Biden argued that Beijing has been the beneficiary of Trump’s America First foreign policy and the US withdrawal from multilateral diplomacy, pledging to “get China to play by international laws.” He also rejected Trump’s attacks on the Obama-Biden record in North Korea, which had grown its nuclear arsenal prior to Trump’s term in office. Trump tooted his own horn about the relatively calm state of affairs with Pyongyang.

Foreign policy — officially labeled as "national security" — was designed to take up one-sixth of the debate, with the subject of climate change also allotted 15 minutes by NBC moderator Kristen Welker. Trump deflected Biden’s climate statements by saying, “Look at China, how filthy it is, look at Russia, look at India, it’s filthy. The air is filthy.” The comments were not well-received by New Delhi, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cultivated a close relationship with the White House.

What The World is following

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to meet Friday with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan to try bringing a halt to the month-long fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Deadly clashes continued in the disputed region of the South Caucasus, however, just hours before the scheduled meeting in Washington, DC. Two Russian-mediated ceasefires already failed to bring peace to the long-disputed territory, which is technically within Azerbaijan’s borders but is largely inhabited and governed by Armenians. With odds of any breakthrough low, Pompeo plans to hold separate meetings with Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.

And, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has urged demonstrators who have taken to the streets against police brutality to end their protests, as roving gangs with knives and sticks blocked roads near burned-out buildings in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Armed men demanded cash from motorists on the highway leading to the international airport, and around the suburb of Lekki, police stations were torched. Violence has escalated since a curfew was declared on Tuesday, when Nigerian security forces killed around a dozen protesters — a toll that Buhari only mentioned indirectly in his address to the nation.

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Bright spot

Dr. Arup Senapati, a surgeon at Silchar Medical College in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, has prioritized making the world a happier place — if just a little bit. Senapati was recently filmed dancing to the Bollywood track “Ghungroo” from the film “War” to cheer up his patients who were hospitalized with the coronavirus. The doc nails the signature hook step popularized by Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan.

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