Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space flight & the new space race

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week with a look to outer space, in a special edition of (Out of The) World In 60 Seconds:

Was today's Blue Origin space flight a big deal for humankind, or just a big deal for Jeff Bezos?

I'm not sure the space flight itself was such a big deal for humankind, but I do think the advances in space technology, which are increasingly stepping up, they're much quicker. I mean, reusable rockets that land exactly where they took off. That's very different from the space shuttle a couple of decades ago, and very exciting in terms of the ability to not just engage in space tourism, but explore both what's outside of our Earth and beyond. So yeah, I think the fact that's being driven by the private sector is a big deal for the United States, a big deal for the planet. I, having said that, the planet that we're right now all on, is the one that matters, I think, the most to everybody for the foreseeable future.


Did Richard Branson steal Jeff Bezos' thunder?

No, I don't think he did. I think more relevantly, Richard Branson saved his company, Virgin Galactic. They had a problem. One of their planes or rockets, if you will, had malfunctioned. There were huge delays, and now suddenly they showed right before Bezos. They got an enormous amount of media attention. Branson's always been a genius at that. I'm much happier that he decided to apply himself to outer-space travel or near-space travel and tourism rather than trying to run for political office, frankly. It's better aligned towards that, and I think it will get more attention to space. Frankly, as someone who always loved space stuff and dinosaurs, when I was a kid, I think that's a good thing.

Will this flight have geopolitical implications like the 20th-century Space Race?

Sort of in the sense that in the United States, NASA has long been seriously underfunded. A lot of scuttled missions, not a lot of grand vision and ambition like we used to in the days of the Apollo missions. The Chinese, the Indians, the Emiratis are doing a lot more of that than NASA is, but the United States is still, in many ways, way out in front of the space race because of Jeff Bezos, because of Elon Musk. In fact, I'd argue that it's the guy that's not in the headlines this week or last week that matters most for space. That's Elon. He's kind of dominating near-Earth orbit. The truly interesting thing about Elon Musk though, and this is geopolitical, is that SpaceX is really an arm of the American military. It's like over 90% of all of their contracts are with NASA and the Pentagon, while Tesla is doing enormous business with high tech in China, with Chinese partners. And the ability for Elon to engage in that geopolitical balancing act. It is probably the most problematic business model out there of all of the advanced tech players. I'm not sure it's sustainable and I'm not sure which one he's going to choose. So we'll see where that goes.

What responsibility do wealthy nations have to ensure the least developed countries aren't left behind? Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak? Today at 11am ET/8am PT, join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live Global Stage discussion: Unfinished Business: Is the world really building back better?

The New Yorker's Susan Glasser will moderate a discussion with Brad Smith, President and Vice Chair, Microsoft; David Malpass, President, World Bank Group; Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media; and Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Watch LIVE today, Wednesday 9/22 at 11am ET/ 8am PT/ 5pm CEST at gzeromedia.com/globalstage.

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1 billion: US House Democrats this week voted to cut $1 billion worth of military aid for Israel. The money — which was stuffed into a larger appropriations bill meant to fund the US government and raise the debt ceiling — was supposed to go specifically to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. The move sets up a showdown between progressives who want to slash US aid to Israel and the pro-Israel moderate wing of the party.

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Free internet for everyone sounds great, but what's really important is for it to be accessible, says Vickie Robinson, head of Microsoft's Airband Initiative to expand broadband access throughout the developing world. The problem, she explains, is that it costs money to build and maintain networks, so no costs for end users could have unintended consequences. "If you have a framework in which the internet is free for all, do we lose some freedoms? Do we lose innovation? Do we lose the use of the internet as a tool for empowerment?" Instead, Robinson would focus only on giving access to people who really need it and can't afford to be online.

Robinson weighed in during a Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft during the 76th UN General Assembly.

Learn more: Should internet be free for everyone? A Global Stage debate

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 will the QUAD leaders address the microchip supply chain issue during their meeting this week?

Well, the idea for leaders of the US, Japan, India, and Australia, is to collaborate more intensively on building secure supply chains for semiconductors, and that is in response to China's growing assertiveness. I think it's remarkable to see that values are becoming much more clearly articulated by world leaders when they're talking about governing advanced technologies. The current draft statement ahead of the QUAD meeting says that collaboration should be based on the rule of respecting human rights.

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On the one hand, UN Secretary-General António Guterres believes COVID has fractured trust between mainly rich and poor countries, especially on vaccines, as the pandemic "demonstrated our enormous fragility." On the other hand, it generated more trust in science, especially on climate — practically the only area, Guterres says, where the US and China can find some common ground these days. Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

Well, we're in the thick of "high-level week" for the United Nations General Assembly, known as UNGA. As always, the busiest few days in global diplomacy are about more than just speeches and hellish midtown traffic in Manhattan. Here are a few things we are keeping an eye on as UNGA reaches peak intensity over in Turtle Bay.

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Ahead of the 76th UN General Assembly, the US and the EU both agreed to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by the end of the decade to reduce global warming. Will they convince other top emitters like China, Russia and India to do the same before the COP26 climate summit in November? This would be a big deal, because methane emissions, one-quarter of which come from agriculture, are the biggest contributors to climate change after carbon dioxide — and 80 times more potent in warming the planet. We take a look at the world's top methane emitters, compared with their respective carbon dioxide emissions.

Most of the hard-hitting conversations at the UN General Assembly take place behind closed doors. Still, during High-Level Week, when leaders get up to speak at the podium, it's their one big shot to send a message to representatives from the entire world. Here's some of what went down today:

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