GameStop stock rally gives policymakers opportunity for legislation

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

First question. Stonks! Will the GameStop stock rally result in new regulation on Wall Street?

The answer is probably, but the interesting thing is, we have no idea what form that regulation might take. The interesting thing about this storyline around GameStop is that the run-up in prices, driven by social media chatter on Reddit, against hedge funds who had shorted the stock, opens up a whole can of worms for how you want to solve the issue, and is most likely going to be an outlet for members of Congress preexisting biases. If you want to regulate hedge funds, well, here's an excuse to do so. If you want to implement a financial transaction tax, this is your opportunity. If you're concerned about consumer protection, data privacy, this could be a hook to get into those issues as well. So, this is a headline grabbing event that's probably going to fade out of the news in a week or so, but it's going to stay relevant to policymakers for several more months, could potentially result in new legislation, or new regulation from the SEC based around investor protection and market structure. So, stay tuned. We're going to be hearing about GameStop for a long time.


Second question. What is the future for the legislative filibuster?

Well, as part of the Senate's organizing resolutions, two Democratic senators made public commitments that they were not going to vote to change the legislative filibuster. This is the 60-vote threshold in the Senate to pass legislation. With 50 Democratic members in the Senate, you need all 50 to agree to change the rules. They only have 48 votes right now at the most. This means it's probably not going to happen. Now, these two senators could change their mind down the road, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, Joe Manchin, from West Virginia. There's probably a handful of other senators who also oppose changing the rules but haven't done so publicly. The other thing they could do is pass legislation using the reconciliation process, which has guard rails around it that limited to only budget and tax legislation, but change the rules of the reconciliation process, to supercharge their ability to pass legislation with only 50 votes without changing the legislative filibuster. Something to keep an eye on, we expect at least two big pieces of legislation this year to pass through the reconciliation process, giving multiple opportunities to try to change those rules and erode the norms around reconciliation.

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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