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What We're Watching

Civil war endgame in Libya? – General Khalifa Haftar – a warlord who controls parts of Libya – has launched a military assault on Tripoli to seize the capital city from a UN-backed government there. The background is that after Muammar Qaddafi was killed in 2011 and Libya fell into civil war, Haftar, a former Qaddafi general who turned against his former boss, became a powerful warlord. Earlier this year, he seized oil-rich territory in the country's south, and he's now making a play to reunify Libya on his own terms. The UN and US have condemned his move on the capital, but both have evacuated personnel.

Your score on the Xi Jinping app – At the urging of the government, tens of millions of Chinese citizens have downloaded a new multimedia app from the propaganda ministry that teaches people to think like President Xi Jinping. The app awards points for study and knowledge of the material. High scorers are praised by state media, low scorers are stigmatized at work and school. It's part of Xi's bid to bolster the power and appeal of the Communist Party. We're watching because it's another fascinating example of how authoritarian governments are appropriating the kinds of social media technologies that people once assumed would be forces for democratization and openness. The app is even used as a dating platform!

What We're Ignoring

"Black" Hungarians – Hungary's national opera house is currently staging American composer George Gershwin's 1935 work Porgy and Bess, a story of love, poverty, and violence set in a black community in the American South. But here's the problem: the performers are white, violating Gershwin estate rules that only black casts can perform the opera. Undaunted, the opera has gotten its performers to sign letters saying they "self-identify" as "African-American." A nice bit of cross-cultural trolling (and a swipe at "identity politics"), but we're ignoring this for two reasons: Hungarians are more Siberian than they are African or American, and because this production of Porgy and Bess really just sounds horrendous.

US sanctions against Iran's Republican Guard – On Monday, the Trump administration formally designated Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization" alongside other regional menaces like al-Qaeda and ISIS. This is the first time the US has added a branch of another country's military to this terrorist list, but beyond that, there's not much to see here. The IRGC already faces a huge number of sanctions, including American ones -- this symbolic move won't register as a significant new provocation of the IRGC. Blood between Washington and Tehran is already about as bad as it can be.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream