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What We're Watching

Explanations for the Assange arrest – Why did Ecuador's government allow UK police to arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday after providing him asylum in its London embassy for nearly seven years? Was it pressure from the US government, which wants to imprison him for revealing its secrets? Assange's ongoing political activities? His "discourteous and aggressive behavior" toward embassy staff? Threats by Wikileaks against Ecuador? Or did Assange fail to follow embassy rules that he must pay his own medical bills and clean up after his cat? (Those were actual rules.) It probably wasn't the cat, but your Signal authors can smell that litter box from across the Atlantic.

South African violence against migrants – Election season can be a dangerous time. Migrants from other African countries have again become the target of deadly vigilante attacks by South Africans in recent weeks. Guest workers from Malawi, Somalia, DR Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe have all been victimized. Upcoming elections may be feeding the violence as politicians from multiple parties publicly blame African foreigners for many of South Africa's economic, security, and social problems.

The Swiss troll the Brits – For the first time in modern Switzerland's history, a court has overruled the result of a nationwide referendum. In 2016, Swiss voters were asked whether partners who live together should pay tax at the same rate as married couples. By a margin of 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent, voters said no. This week, Switzerland's Supreme Court voided that result on the grounds that the information provided to voters before the referendum was "incomplete." Said the court: "Keeping in mind the close result and the severe nature of the irregularities, it is possible that the outcome of the ballot could have been different." The vote will be re-run. We're watching this story to see the expressions on the faces of Britons when they hear about it.

What We're Ignoring

Cuban Protesters – Hundreds of Cubans marched through Havana this week to protest cruelty to animals. Organizers of the demonstration say it's the first independent march ever authorized by Cuba's Communist government. Your Signal authors love animals, including Julian Assange's cat, but we'll ignore this story until the Cuban state approves a march to protest cruelty to people who disagree with their government.

Polling on Democratic presidential candidates – The men and women running for president, those who've made it official and those who haven't, are already working hard to raise money and their public profiles. But these are early days. First votes in primaries and caucuses won't be cast for nearly 10 months, and we're still 11 weeks away from the first Democratic presidential debates (June 26-27). Current polls tell us little more than that voters are familiar with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, while the rest of the (ever-expanding) field is relatively unknown.

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