Barrett hearing reflects Supreme Court polarization; predicting US voter turnout

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the latest in US politics:

What has been most revealing to you about the Amy Coney Barrett hearing so far?

Well, what was interesting about them to me was how nakedly political they are. Normally, you have at least the pretense of probing the justice's judicial philosophy, trying to figure out where they stand relative on the political spectrum. But here, you know, the Republicans know they have a vote, so it's largely been cheerleading. And the Democrats have been running what looks like a political campaign, asking questions about the Affordable Care Act, bringing up constituent stories of people who are going to be affected should the Supreme Court knock it down in a way that just is really unusual for Supreme Court. I think that just reflects the polarization of the court and political polarization more generally.


Will we get a COVID stimulus bill before the election?

Probably not. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to talk to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. They seem to be aligned and wanting to get a deal. Although Pelosi has no political incentive to do so, and Mnuchin very likely doesn't have the votes to pass as large of a deal as they're going to try to cut in the US senate because of opposition from conservative Republicans. So, I would be really surprised if this thing went anywhere.

What do you predict voter turnout will be in this election when all is said and done?

Turn out in this election is going to blow the doors off the previous records. 139 million people voted in 2016. 113 million voted in 2018, which was a record for a midterm election. You already have about 16% of the 2016 level ballots coming back already through early voting. States are expanding access to early voting. They're expanding access to mail voting. A state like California, which has a huge population, is sending out ballots to every voter automatically. You saw massive surges in turnout in the primaries and there's more ways to vote now than ever. Plus, you're going to have fewer rejected ballots because states are extending the deadlines in which mail ballots can be accepted. So, this is a big election. Pollsters are hearing that Americans have a high level of interest in this election. I think it could approach 150 million Americans and potentially even more.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

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India and Brazil are currently the world's top two COVID hotspots. But while India's crisis is — at least according to official statistics — a relatively recent one, Brazil's COVID disaster has been an ongoing train wreck. Where India seemed to have kept the pandemic under control until some bad missteps about two months ago, COVID has been wreaking havoc in Brazil almost constantly for over a year now. And President Jair Bolsonaro's macho-posturing and COVID denialism has clearly not helped. We take a look at average daily new cases and deaths in both countries since the pandemic began.

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

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28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

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India’s COVID crisis hits home

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