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29 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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It’s unlikely that a recount will change the election’s outcome, but the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency means it’s time to think big

Demonstrators protest against Donald Trump

When big changes and dangers arise, you have to think big. You don’t put out a forest fire with a glass of water. Thinking small can prevent you from even recognizing trouble, let alone your options for overcoming it. There’s never been a time when thinking big matters more than now. Many across the United States are now trying to figure out how to survive Trump, but it may still be possible to stop him. His regime is not yet inevitable.

It’s a long shot, but one worth trying, the way someone diagnosed with a disease with a 3% survival rate might want to do what it takes to try to be part of the 3%. You don’t get there if you give up at the outset. Trump represents a catastrophe on a scale many seem to have trouble grasping, an attack on what remains democratic and uncorrupted in our old and messy system of government, a threat to international stability, to efforts to address climate change, and to human rights at home and around the world.

Is it possible to prevent him from taking power? Why not explore the wildest possibilities, when the alternative is surrendering to the worst? It may be very possible – but only if we imagine it is possible and work to make the possible the actual.

It is too soon to give up. It is too soon to reconcile ourselves to surviving Trump when the possibility of preventing him is before us. It was a huge surprise that Jill Stein and the Green party chose to demand recounts in three swing states, and another that the Clinton campaign got onboard. What the recount reveals may also be a surprise. People have used “game changer” a lot, but the game of figuring out what this election means and where it takes us seems to change daily, and some of that change depends on what we do. Why not seize history before it tramples us?

What if the recount Jill Stein and the Green party have initiated finds that Trump’s small, surprising lead in three swing states vanishes when the ballots are reviewed? What if Alexandra Chalupa’s report now on its way to Congress presents compelling evidence that the election was hacked? What if the election investigations Republican senator Lindsey Graham and others have asked for reveal corruption or collusion? What if someone (please) finally does some really solid work on investigating the numerous ties between the Trump campaign team and Russia and finds – well, shouldn’t we know what the influences and collaborations, if any, have been?

We are in a national emergency as an alarmingly incompetent and utterly amoral gang prepares to destroy the climate, human rights, the foreign policy positions the US has relied on for stability since the second world war, and more. You don’t have to love Clinton or Stein to see that this is a radical departure from where we have been. .

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Fractured party under pressure to unite its warring factions ahead of difficult election battle against Fillon and Le Pen

François Hollande (left) and Manuel Valls

François Hollande (left) and Manuel Valls, who previously threatened to run against president. Photograph: Michel Euler/AP

The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has insisted he will not resign amid growing government infighting over who will become the Socialist presidential candidate to face the right’s François Fillon and the Front National’s Marine Le Pen.

The fractured Socialist party is under pressure to unite its warring factions against the right’s newly nominated candidate Fillon, a former prime minister whose platform of traditionalist, Catholic social conservatism and sweeping cuts to the French state has infuriated the left who call him the “French Margaret Thatcher”.

But the Socialists are in such disarray that polls show they are unlikely to make it through to the second-round runoff in the French presidential election next May, which is currently predicted to be fought between Fillon and the far-right Front National’s Le Pen.

François Hollande, the least popular French president since the second world war, is expected to announce in the coming days whether or not he will run for a second term. He is reportedly seriously considering running for re-election despite a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%.

Some in Hollande’s party fear any re-election attempt is doomed to fail. Hollande would have to take part in the left’s open primary race to choose its presidential candidate, which is to be held in January and in which he is likely to be roundly attacked.

But every French president in the last 50 years has attempted to get re-elected for a second term and Hollande does not want to be the exception. He was reportedly boosted by a recent slight drop in the number of unemployed. But his unpopularity shows no signs of changing: he is accused of lacking authority and coherence, zigzagging over policy decisions from tax increases to pro-business reform, failing to kickstart the sluggish economy and failing to protect France from a series of devastating terrorist attacks.

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Central Mediterranean is once again the main migrant route into Europe, partly due to the chaos of civil war in Libya

A wooden boat carrying refugees and migrants near the Sicilian shore in November.

A wooden boat carrying refugees and migrants near the Sicilian shore in November. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

More asylum seekers have now reached Italy by boat in 2016 than in any previous year on record.

Nearly 171,000 people have arrived in Italy from north Africa since the start of the year, according to statistics compiled by the UN refugee agency and the Italian government. As of Monday, the total had surpassed the previous record of 170,000, set in 2014.

Migration flows in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece have been drastically reduced after improvements in Turkish policing, increased threats of deportation from Greece, and the closure of a humanitarian corridor between Greece and Germany.

But Europe’s deterrent strategy has failed to cut migration in the central Mediterranean between Libya and Italy, with the Italian route once again becoming the main migrant gateway into Europe.

European navies, including Britain’s, have focused on a military-style response, sending frigates to arrest smugglers in international waters.

Libyan smugglers have responded by sending passengers on board inflatable dinghies that are piloted by migrants themselves, reducing smugglers’ exposure to arrest and allowing their business to continue as normal.

The Libyan civil war has weakened the country’s law enforcement agencies, some of whom are complicit in the smuggling, leaving European governments without viable Libyan partners in their fight against migration.

The chaos there also gives migrants more incentive to leave for Europe; in previous years they could more easily find work and stability in Libya.

Pressure on transit countries in the Sahara desert, through which many African migrants pass before reaching Libya, has had no effect. Flows through Niger, the country to Libya’s south, increased in 2016, despite Niger introducing new anti-smuggling laws at the request of the EU.

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Guardian investigations in Malaysia uncover workers’ allegations involving Samsung, Panasonic and McDonald’s, plus 16 days of activism

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A hostel used by Nepalese migrant workers employed by a labour supply company but working at McDonald’s in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A hostel used by Nepalese migrant workers employed by a labour supply company but working at McDonald’s in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

Migrant workers in Malaysia in the supply chain of goods for global electronics brands Samsung and Panasonic claim they are being duped, underpaid and exploited. The two companies have launched investigations into the allegations, uncovered as part of a Guardian series on claims over conditions in Malaysia. In a separate report, workers at McDonald’s say they were victims of labour exploitation. The workers allege they were subjected to months – and in some cases years – of exploitation by a labour supply company contracted by McDonald’s to provide workers to its restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. McDonald’s says it has now ended its contract with the company.

Friday marked the start of the UN’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence – the campaign ends on Human Rights Day, 10 December. Photographer Bhargavi Joshi’s powerful series of images represent the violence and injustices that confront women worldwide, and how that abuse is whitewashed. And on International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day on Tuesday, four campaigners from Honduras, Nepal, China and Egypt tell us their stories of persecution. Will you be taking part in the 16-day campaign? Tell us about it – we’d like you to share your stories.

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West Africa to target human and animal health together to fight Ebola and Zika>>

UK government led public to believe aid to India had ended, watchdog says>>

Morocco lights the way for Africa on renewable energy>>

One in five people in cities worldwide live in areas with no safe toilet>>

UK accused of lack of transparency over rise in aid funding to private sector>>

‘I was so scared … I was tortured’: Indian women lift the lid on married life>>

‘We are in shock’: historic Bolivia drought hammers homes and crops>>

Free speech becomes a talking point in Sierra Leone as WhatsApp storm rages>>

‘Ours are the hands and faces of slavery’: the exploitation of migrants in Sicily>>

‘It’s a crime to be young and pretty’: girls flee predatory Central America gangs>>

Clouds of filth envelop Asian cities: ‘you can’t escape’>>

Amid devastation of Hurricane Matthew, Haitians urged to go to the polls>>

Toddlers in a pram in Havana, Cuba

Photograph: Ariana Cubillos/AP

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Apprehension and distrust pervade North Dakota protest site as promises from state that there are no plans to forcibly remove people does little to assuage fears

Morton County police use teargas, a water cannon and rubber bullets against demonstrators from Standing Rock in North Dakota on Sunday night. Protesters braved freezing conditions and percussion grenades as they resisted the controversial pipeline with chants of ‘water not oil’. The company working on the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, has almost completed the system, but lack the permission to drill under the river

Police violence against Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota has risen to extraordinary levels, and activists and observers fear that, with two evacuation orders looming, the worst is yet to come.

A litany of munitions, including water cannons, combined with ambiguous government leadership and misleading police statements, have resulted in mass arrests, serious injuries and a deeply sown atmosphere of fear and distrust on the banks of the Missouri river.

Statements by the US Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota state government that, despite their orders of evacuation, there are no plans to forcibly remove protesters opposing the Dakota Access pipeline have done little to assuage fears.

As the first snows have fallen and more protesters arrive in support, apprehension at the encampments about the coming days is running high.

“We’re going to hope for the absolute best,” said Linda Black Elk, a member of the Catawba Nation who works with the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council. “If they do attempt to remove people forcibly, we are certainly preparing for mass casualties.”

‘An infinite arsenal’

Standing Rock protests

Police use a water cannon on Standing Rock protesters last week. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Harkening back to an earlier era, when police in Birmingham, Alabama, attacked African American schoolchildren with dogs and high-pressure water hoses, North Dakota officers trained water cannons on hundreds of Dakota Access pipeline protesters.

On the night of 20 November, though, the temperature was below freezing and the protesters, who call themselves “water protectors”, were camping outdoors for the evening.

Water is just one many “less-than-lethal” munitions that have been trained against the activists.

“They seem to have almost an infinite arsenal of different types of weapons,” said Rachel Lederman, attorney for the National Lawyers Guild. “I don’t think local law enforcement understands how dangerous they are.”

Police have acknowledged using sponge rounds, bean bag rounds, stinger rounds, teargas grenades, pepper spray, Mace, Tasers and a sound weapon. The explosive teargas grenades in use at Standing Rock have been banned by some US law enforcement agencies because they indiscriminately spray people, Lederman said.

“I feel like Morton County law enforcement is experimenting on us,” Black Elk said. “It’s like they received all this free military equipment and they’re just itching to try it out.”

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The FBI processed 185,713 background checks for gun transactions, more than any day since the system launched nearly two decades ago, defying expectations

Gun sales surged on Black Friday despite predictions of a slump after Donald Trump won the presidential election.

Gun sales surged on Black Friday despite predictions of a slump after Donald Trump won the presidential election. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the White House, and the National Rifle Association’s 2016 champion Donald Trump is almost certain to leave firearm regulations alone. But America’s appetite for guns is more voracious than ever.

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) processed more background checks for gun transactions on Black Friday – 185,713 in total – than on any single day since the system launched nearly two decades ago, an agency spokesperson told the Trace.

The total on 25 November just barely broke the record set on last year’s Black Friday, when the FBI processed 185,345 checks.

There is no single database of gun purchases, so NICS is considered the best available proxy of sales.

Retail sales traditionally spike the Friday after Thanksgiving as shoppers rush to begin the holiday gift-giving season, often drawn in by special discounts. Gun sales have been lifted by the same tide in the past – four of the top 10 busiest days for NICS were Black Fridays, including the most recent Black Friday (four more of the top 10 highest-volume days came in the week immediately following the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting).

But the new record-breaking day for background checks defied expectations. Last week, a spokesman for the FBI told the Trace that the bureau projected the number of checks on 25 November would fall to 180,500, a decrease of more than 5,000 over the past year.

Gun industry sources predicted a similar sales slump after Trump’s surprise election victory. For more than a year before the election, gun sales were buoyed by several mass shootings and the threat of a Clinton presidency. Gun buyers had plenty of reason to expect new regulations would soon make it harder to buy exactly the weapons they wanted. For 18 consecutive months, NICS charted monthly records for total checks.

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