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A shortage of election observers

The United States will have viewer international visitors monitoring polls

People vote in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Associated Press/Photo by Rick Bowmer

A shortage of election observers

UNITED STATES: Few Americans realize the United States admits a team of international election observers to monitor polling. This year’s observation team, in place since September and headed by Polish diplomat Urszula Gacek, is far smaller than planned—down to 30 observers versus the 500 recommended. That’s due in part to the pandemic and also to a lack of needed travel invitations from the State Department.

I highly recommend the Helsinki on the Hill podcast put out by the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and its latest episode is on U.S. election monitoring. Earlier this year, former Vice President Joe Biden laid out his foreign policy plans and priorities, but analyst Kori Schake writes that the leading presidential candidate “has been wrong a lot on foreign and defense policy.” As the United Kingdom prepares to formally cut ties with the European Union at the end of the year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party sees either a Trump or Biden victory as a mix of danger and opportunity.

SUDAN: President Donald Trump announced the United States will remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism after the government in Khartoum agreed to pay U.S. victims of the 1998 embassy bombings $335 million. Al-Qaeda planned the attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania from its base in Sudan, and Sudan has been one of four on the terrorism list ever since, largely cutting it off from international banking. Sudan’s bank governor said it has transferred the funds, paving the way for the removal, plus normalization of relations with Israel—another of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s conditions.

Importantly, the deal does not compensate foreign nationals, who are most of the victims. It applies only to victims who were U.S. citizens at the time of the bombings. More than 200 foreign nationals employed by the embassies are left out, according to Eric Sapp, founder of Eleison Group. Sapp told me the settlement is “badly discriminatory” and breaks with precedent from other compensation arrangements, including the one between families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and Libya. He said the State Department has blocked attempts to resolve the differences.

Of 224 people killed in the twin bombings, 12 were Americans, 54 were embassy employees or contractors, and the rest bystanders. Thousands were injured, including 139 embassy employees or contractors. Here’s my report from Nairobi on the toll for Kenyans one year after the attacks.

RUSSIA: A U.S. grand jury has indicted six Russian nationals—all military intelligence officers—on seven counts of international cyberhacking that include some of the most destructive cyberattacks of recent years. The indictment was unsealed this week just as the United States and Russia edged toward an arms control deal that could freeze the number of nuclear warheads on each side and extend the accord known as the New START Treaty for one year.

SYRIA: Mortar rounds from Turkish forces killed 13-year-old Hatam Zedan Alkhel on Oct. 16 near Raqqa, despite a U.S.-based trauma team’s efforts to save him. Turkey’s military units are continuing to attack areas inside Syria, disregarding a ceasefire arrangement reached a year ago via Russia. Alkhel was riding his pet donkey and tending sheep when the shells struck near Ein Issa, where he is the 11th child killed by Turkish forces this year. Authorities in northern Syria say Turkish drone strikes this week also have killed civilians.

CHINA: A growing number of far-left activists are denying China’s repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, claiming it’s a creation of the imperialist United States to manufacture a new Cold War. Yet U.S. National Security adviser Robert O’Brien said China is perpetrating “something close to” genocide against Uighurs held in Xinjiang’s mass labor camps.

Guo Wengui—the Chinese billionaire at the center of speculation over a foreign-backed campaign to allegedly leak hard drives containing emails from Joe Biden’s son Hunter—is the same man who launched a disinformation campaign targeting ChinaAid founder and pastor Bob Fu, forcing Fu and his family into hiding.

ISRAEL: “We shall remember this day a glorious day of peace,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a signing ceremony in Tel Aviv marking bilateral agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

BOLIVIA: Socialists under front-runner Luis Arce have won a bitterly fought presidential election, raising the prospect that a new wave of socialism is underway in Latin America, just a year after right-wing forces drove leftists from power.

FRANCE: Abdelhakim Sefrioui, a seasoned Islamist activist well known to French intelligence, is the instigator behind the Oct. 16 beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in Conflans.

GERMANY: Jim Feezel, a World War II hero from Alabama, died last week at 95. Feezel at 19 drove a tank through the gate of Dachau, liberating the Nazi concentration camp in 1945. He said he immediately saw “the bodies stacked like cordwood” and men walking toward him who looked like skeletons.

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine’s first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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Re: A shortage of election observers -- the secondary headline states "The United States will have viewer international visitors monitoring polls"

Shouldn't that be "The United States will have fewer international visitors monitoring polls" ?