O’Rourke, Abbott face off in Texas gubernatorial debate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott faced off with his Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, on Friday in their only scheduled debate, with the midterm elections rapidly approaching. 

Though Abbott maintains a 7-point lead in the current polls, according to CBS News, this is likely to be among the closest races that the governor has had — he won re-election in 2014 and 2018 by 20 points and 13 points, respectively. 

The two candidates sparred over a number of issues, with gun control taking center stage following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, this past May that left 19 children dead. Abbott has been heavily criticized in the months following the shooting, with many saying that he has not done enough to enact reasonable gun control to try and quell the violence.

O’Rourke seemed to agree. 

“It’s been 18 weeks since their kids have been killed, and not a thing has changed in this state to make it any less likely that any other child will meet the same fate,” he said. “All we need is action, and the only person standing in our way is the governor of the state of Texas.”

Abbott, though, dismissed claims of his inaction, saying that he was “misled” by “everyone in that room that provided me with the information about what law enforcement did.” The governor added that local law enforcement needed to be held accountable for their failure to respond to the shooter. 

The debate marked the first time that the men had talked in person since O’Rourke confronted Abbott at a press conference following the shooting, accusing him of being complicit in the deaths of the children. 

Beyond gun control, the pair also argued over a number of hot-button issues currently facing Texans. This includes the topic of abortion, where the striking down of Roe V. Wade (1973) has opened the door for states to pass restrictive abortion laws, as well as immigration policy, where the candidates divulged over the issue of Abbott having sent migrants to New York City

Notably, the debate was held with no live audience, which, according to The New York Timescame at the request of Abbott. 

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Russians shell civilian convoy in Ukraine, killing 20

Ukrainian officials on Saturday said that Russian soldiers had shelled a convoy of civilians in the country’s northeast region, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people, some of them children. 

Oleh Syniehubov, the governor of the nation’s Kharkiv region, wrote on social media that the attack was “сruelty that can’t be justified,” according to The Associated Press. The attack is one of a number of ambushes that Ukrainian officials have blamed on the Russian forces in recent days, and Syniehubov also reportedly wrote of another attack in which 24 people in a civilian convoy were killed trying to flee the Kupiansk district. 

At least 13 children and a number of pregnant women were among the dead, Syniehubov said, adding that “the Russians fired at civilians almost at point-blank range.”

Photographs of the attacked convoy reportedly showed blown-up trucks filled with burned corpses and streets littered with bodies, the AP said. 

Russian government officials have not commented on the report of civilian mass casualties, despite the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been ramping up anti-Western rhetoric. Even as the Russian Army continues to pull its forces back amidst a strong Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin and his government have remained defiant. A recent referendum by Russia announced that the country would be “annexing” four territories in Ukraine, though the Russians have no legal standing to do so. 

This annexation was condemned by the majority of the Western world, which has all but turned its back on Russia as the invasion enters its eighth month. President Biden called Putin’s annexation effort a “sham” and announced that the United States would be implementing a slate of new sanctions against Russia. 

However, even as Russian propaganda asserts that the invasion of Ukraine continues to run smoothly, evidence points to anything but. On Saturday, Ukrainian forces entered the eastern city of Lyman, where a few thousand Russian troops were reportedly still stationed. By that afternoon, Ukrainian soldiers had surrounded the remaining Russians, forcing them to flee the city. 

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Brazil’s election: A clash of presidents

On Sunday, Brazilians will head to the polls to vote for their president. The world has its eye on two candidates: incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Here’s everything you need to know:

Who are the candidates?

While there are 11 candidates in the running, this election is likely a battle between Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula. It is predicted that 80 percent of Brazilian voters will vote for one of these candidates.

Current president and incumbent candidate Bolsonaro has had a rather turbulent presidency thus far. Bolsonaro is a right-wing populist who took office in 2019. When he assumed the role, he vowed to “restore order” and actively denounced corruption and crime. The media often referred to Bolsonaro as the “Trump of the tropics” due to his conservative ideologies and strong stance against leftists. His presidency was marked by reduced gun regulation, expanded deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, and corruption scandals. One of the defining moments of his presidency was the COVID-19 pandemic, which came a year into his term. Bolsonaro denied the dangers of COVID, calling it a “little flu,” which ultimately led to Brazil having the second-highest death toll in the world as of Aug. 2022, the Buenos Aires Times reports.

Bolsonaro’s biggest competition is Lula. Lula was elected president in 2002 after running four times. He became the first leftist leader in Brazil in nearly a half-century and served two terms. He left office with a very high approval rating for an exiting president, BBC reports. During his terms, Lula funded large-scale social programs and increased the minimum wage. In July 2017, Lula was caught in a scandal and sentenced to nine years in prison for corruption, charges which he fervently denied. In November 2019, new evidence found that the judge working the case may not have been impartial, leading to Lula’s release. He promptly returned to the political stage.

Brazil has no limit to the number of terms a person can serve, but they can only serve two consecutive terms at a time.

What do polls look like?

The election on Sunday is only round 1. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the votes, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off election on Oct. 30. As the day inches closer, Lula continues to gain a lead over Bolsonaro, with current polls showing Lula at 48 percent of the vote and Bolsonaro at 31 percent. Just last week, the polls showed Lula at 47 percent, suggesting that his momentum continues to build, reports Reuters.

Given the numbers, the polls also suggest that Lula has the potential to win the election in the first round alone. However, if the race goes to a second round, polls by The Economist suggest that Lula would likely win by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. These numbers have been understandably concerning for Bolsonaro. 

The incumbent has made a variety of strategic moves to help push polls in his direction. For one, he attended the UN General Assembly this month and gave a speech touting the wins of his administration in an effort to garner support. Bolsonaro has also attempted to openly cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election. His party released a document alleging that there are a group of government contractors with “absolute power to manipulate election results without leaving a trace.” The released document contained no evidence and was immediately rejected by Brazil’s electoral authority, The New York Times reports. The Supreme Court is now investigating Bolsonaro’s party for fraud. 

Bolsonaro has also suggested that he will not accept the outcome of the election if he does not win. He stated that he would accept the results if they are “clean and transparent,” however his discrediting of the election suggests that he doesn’t perceive the election as either, reports the Economist. Many have drawn similarities between Bolsonaro and Trump’s election-denying methods, further amplified by the fact that Trump previously referred to Bolsonaro as his “number-one ally.”

What’s at stake?

The biggest stakeholder in this election is the Amazon rainforest. Many media outlets have deemed this the election to determine the fate of the Amazon because of how much either candidate would change the trajectory of its management. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation sharply increased. When he was elected, he favored the agribusiness industry and consequently removed enforcement measures, cut spending and fired experts from science and environmental agencies, and tried to weaken Indigenous land rights, Vox reports. By 2021, Amazon deforestation rose 73 percent above 2018 levels. These levels are expected to rise if Bolsonaro stays in office according to Reuters.

On the other hand, during Lula’s presidency in 2003, he coordinated with government agencies to reduce deforestation by 70 percent and advocated for climate change mitigation. In his current campaign, Lula also places emphasis on reducing deforestation and getting rid of illegal mining in the rainforest, Grist reports. An analysis shows that Bolsonaro’s loss could cut deforestation by approximately 89 percent. 

This could be the election’s most pressing issue. The Amazon is home to nearly 40,000 plant species, 427 kinds of mammals, 1,300 birds, 378 reptiles, 400 amphibians, and 3,000 freshwater fish. Excessive deforestation could cause a runaway reaction, transforming the rainforest into a savannah-like ecosystem, unsuitable for most Amazonian species. The tipping point for the reaction is predicted to be when approximately 20 to 25 percent of the forest is gone. Currently, approximately 17 percent of the Amazon is already gone. The outcome of this election could very well determine the future of the forest.

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7 cartoons about Putin’s troop surge

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Drew Sheneman | Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency

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Schot | Copyright 2022 Cagle Cartoons

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Chip Bok | Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate

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Guy Parsons | Copyright 2022 Cagle Cartoons

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