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Picketing, pigeons, politics: Scenes from the Nevada caucus –



Still, the Silver State campaign has delivered on some of its promises to change it up on the campaign trail, offering up scenes that are hard to imagine happening elsewhere.

There was Elizabeth Warren ordering a boba tea at a cafe in Las Vegas’ Chinatown. Tom Steyer hosting a Black History Month concert with former members of R&B groups En Vogue and Boyz to Men. Bernie Sanders’ face plastered on a mobile billboard driving through heavily Latino neighbourhoods —- the kind promotion typically used to advertise strip joints and acrobatic shows.

President Donald Trump couldn’t resist getting in on the action. He spent much of the week sleeping at this gleaming hotel tower on the Las Vegas Strip. Tourists booed and cheered as they watched his motorcade cruise along a Las Vegas Strip eerily cleared of traffic after a rally in Phoenix on Wednesday. He had another on Friday in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, seven casino-resorts on the Las Vegas Strip will be among 200 locations hosting sites for the state’s Democratic caucuses. (This state doesn’t blink at allowing the democratic process in adult playgrounds devoted to gambling and overindulgence.)

Nevada’s turn near the top of the presidential campaign calendar is still new, added ahead of the 2008 election. That means caucuses here don’t come with the same traditions and voters haven’t become habituated to seeing the candidates at their neighbourhood parks and high schools.

“Dude, we just touched Bernie!” two University of Nevada-Las Vegas students yelled to a third shortly after Sanders wrapped up a campus rally.

Campaigns have had to be creative in pursuit of voters who can be hard to find, not hyper-engaged, new to the process and, sometimes, behind a gate. Traditional organizing tactics like door-knocking and phone-banking are tough in Nevada, where people move so often that records of addresses and phone numbers are regularly out of date.

So many Nevadans don’t have landlines that the former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign relied more on text messaging rather than phone banking, said Olivia Bercow, a campaign spokeswoman.

The campaign found it tricky to do routine canvassing in the locked apartment complexes and gated communities in the sprawling suburbs. It focused on asking supporters to organize friends and neighbours, helping them get inside.

They’ve also looked to find locals where they hang out — at their church, the “first Fridays” art walk, open mic nights, a Dia de los Muertos celebration or a salsa dancing class. But there’s one place you don’t go, campaigns learn quickly.

“If you go to the Strip thinking that you’re going to talk about Pete, most people you find don’t live in Nevada,” Bercow said. “Its not a great use of time.”

Natalie Montelongo, a senior strategist for Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, said organizing in the state “requires creativity and grit.”

In a state with strong labour, among the most coveted group of voters are the casino workers’ Culinary Workers Union, Local 226. While they are sometimes unnoticed by the millions of tourists frequenting casinos, the workers who keep the hotels humming, the drinks flowing, the rooms clean and the dishes sparkling are part of a 60,000-member majority-female, majority-Latino group that presidential candidates have aggressively courted.

Even though the union’s leaders have said the group is not endorsing, candidates are still working to woo the union’s politically engaged members. Warren and former Vice-President Joe Biden were among the candidates touring the casino’s employee dining rooms during the week.

On Wednesday, nearly all of the candidates carried signs and chanted as they joined picketing union members in front of a towering casino-hotel that’s been locked in a longstanding labour dispute with the Culinary Union. Warren wore red,matching the workers.Biden wrapped an arm around the union’s leader, Geoconda Argüello-Kline, and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and billionaire businessman Tom Steyer carried signs that said “No contract, no peace.” Nearby, a troupe of dancers dressed as a bartender, cook, server, cocktail waitress, housekeeper and janitor danced in unison.

There was little peace at the Wednesday debate, the most combative of the primary and the first to feature former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Although Bloomberg isn’t competing in the Nevada caucus he took nearly as many blows as Trump, who spent the night down the street.

As Trump appeared in the city, so too did a group of pigeons with tiny red “Make America Great Again” hats like those worn by by Trump’s supporters on their heads. One pigeon had a tiny blond wig similar to Trump’s distinctive hair. A self-proclaimed “underground radical group” that goes by the acronym P.U.T.I.N. (Pigeons, United To Interfere Now), told the Las Vegas Review-Journal they released the pigeons as an “aerial protest piece” in response to the 2020 Democratic debate as “ a gesture of support and loyalty to President Trump.” They also hope to elevate the stature of the pigeon, the group said.

Michelle L. Price And Jonathan J. Cooper, The Associated Press

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Extremist Politics Threatens Chile's Economic Miracle – Bloomberg



Chile has for decades been Latin America’s most stable nation and one of its most prosperous. Its pro-business outlook has drawn foreign direct investment and fueled economic growth, and its record in reducing poverty has been impressive. Much of that is now thrown into question. After the recent first round of elections, the two front-runners for the presidency are extremists — an ultraconservative who seems nostalgic for the dictatorial rule of Augusto Pinochet, and a leftist who promises not merely to reform but to dismantle Chile’s economic model. It’s hard to say which of these agendas might prove more toxic.

The candidate of the far right, José Antonio Kast, emerged with a narrow lead heading into the runoff vote on Dec. 19. His platform is thin on economics and heavy on social conservatism and authoritarian messaging. His counterpart on the left, Gabriel Boric, promises radical change to combat inequality, rein in capitalism and dethrone market forces. “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism,” he explains, “it will also be its grave.”

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Now, more than ever, the N.W.T. government needs party politics –



This column is an opinion by former Yellowknife MLA Kieron Testart. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

In 2019 near the end of my term as an MLA, I proposed implementing a caucus system that, among other things, would allow for political discipline of MLAs. At the time MLAs rejected any changes that would limit their jealously-guarded independence. What they failed to recognize was that this proposal was not about imposing discipline, rather it was about enabling politicians to effectively discipline MLAs when required. 

The Norn affair and the pronounced lack of any real accountability in the legislature over the government’s failings are the consequences of being governed by a gang of loosely aligned political independents who lack common vision and leadership.

This point was made by MLA Rylund Johnson who said, “In party systems, the party whip would probably make sure this never happens. Party caucuses would kick members out and make them irrelevant …Those aren’t tools that we have in consensus government.”

The consensus system is based on little more than good intentions and is powerless to address its own failings, with MLAs routinely using their constituents as a convenient smoke screen for their own bad behaviour. 

Sound familiar? It should, it happens all the time with the recent example of Steve Norn being the most spectacular failure of political will to date in the 19th Assembly.

Norn’s sustained attacks on his colleagues and the legislature were left virtually unchecked by MLAs, who stood by silently. Public confidence in elected officials has been shaken to the point that two former premiers have taken the extraordinary step of publicly criticizing sitting MLAs. Scandal and policy failures have become the chief commodity of the Legislative Assembly and Caroline Cochrane’s government.

While other provinces acted swiftly with new spending and policies to bolster their economies and attract new health-care workers, the Cochrane government has wrung its hands, paralyzed by bureaucratic inertia. We have watched in real time as our health-care system has buckled and broken under the strain of the pandemic, with no plan yet released for economic recovery after months and months of delay. And despite the outcry from Northerners for their government to act, the “unofficial opposition” of regular MLAs is absent, or at least silent, unable to muster the courage and unify to demand better government from the cabinet. 

In the Northwest Territories the people have a choice in who gets to take power but not in how that power is used, nor can they hold the powerful accountable during elections. MLAs appoint the premier and cabinet, who are solely accountable to each other. This means that voters have no say over who forms government or what that government does for its four-year term and cannot hold that government accountable for its decisions. This leaves accountability in the hands of an undisciplined committee of regular MLAs who lack resources, staff, and experience to provide alternatives to cabinet policies. Public policy development and implementation are the sole domain of unelected bureaucrats in the government’s senior management.

Despite the constant mythologizing of consensus government as a superior form of government, founded in the traditions of Indigenous Peoples, the fact is none of the N.W.T.’s self-governing Indigenous nations use consensus systems, nor did Indigenous people design the system when it was first implemented decades ago. That honour falls to federal bureaucrats when they devolved responsible government to our young territory. Despite their frustration, Northerners continue to consent to an undemocratic democracy where their electoral choices have been reduced to little more than an overblown hiring competition. 

A culture of silence has taken root in the N.W.T.’s democratic discourse. The fear of reprisal from those in power forces many to whisper in the back of coffee shops and speak anonymously to reporters, when they ought to be able to freely express their own views and see those views transformed into political action.

There was a time that the consensus system served Northerners well. But that time has passed, made clear by persistent scandal and public policy implosions that have not stopped since the last election. We’ve seen devolution create a modern N.W.T. granted nearly full responsibility over its land and resources. It is now time for evolution to transform our political system into a modern multi-party democracy that can provide unity and real action on the most pressing issues.

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Italy, France to deepen ties as Merkel’s exit tests European diplomacy



The leaders of Italy and France will sign a treaty on Friday to strengthen bilateral ties at a time when European diplomacy is being tested by the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Quirinale Treaty is aimed at enhancing cooperation between Paris and Rome in areas including defence, migration, the economy, culture and trade.

The signing ceremony comes shortly after a new coalition pact was agreed in Germany, ending 16 years of rule by Merkel, who was the undisputed leader of Europe and forged especially close ties with successive French leaders.

The new Berlin administration is expected to be more inward looking, especially at the start of its mandate, and both Paris and Rome are keen to deepen relations in a period clouded by economic uncertainty, the pandemic, a more assertive Russia, a rising China and a more disengaged United States.

“Macron’s intention is to create a new axis with Italy, while it is in Italy’s interest to hook up with the France-Germany duo,” said a senior Italian diplomatic source, who declined to be named.


Originally envisaged in 2017, negotiations on the new treaty ground to a halt in 2018 when a populist government took office in Rome and clashed with Macron over immigration.

Relations hit a low in 2019 when Macron briefly recalled France’s ambassador to Italy, but there has been a renaissance this year following the appointment of former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to lead an Italian unity government.

A French diplomatic source rejected suggestions that the new axis between the European Union’s second and third largest economies represented any re-alignment of Paris’s diplomatic priorities.

“We have never played a jealousy triangle with European partners. These bilateral relations, when they are strong … complement each other,” the source said.

The Quirinale Treaty, named after the Italian president’s residence and loosely modelled on a 1963 Franco-German pact, is expected to lead to Paris and Rome seeking common ground ahead of EU summits, just as France already coordinates key European policy moves with Germany.

Full details of the pact have not been released but there will be special interest in sections covering economic ties and cooperation in strategic sectors.

French companies have invested heavily in Italy in recent years, but Italian politicians have accused Paris of being less forthcoming when Italian businesses seek cross-border deals.

Earlier this year, state-owned shipmaker Fincantieri’s bid to take over its French peer Chantiers de l’Atlantique collapsed, thwarted by EU competition issues.

Italian officials suspected Paris actively sought to undermine the deal behind the scenes.


(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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