Notre Dame won't host debate; India bans Chinese apps; this year's Hajj

Ian Bremmer brings you his perspective on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Notre Dame withdrew from hosting the first presidential debate this fall. What does this mean for the debates in general?

I don't think it means very much. I mean, it obviously means that coronavirus is still very much with us and President Trump is in crisis mode. I mean, we just had Major League Baseball opening day, in a 60-game season, and some over a dozen players and coaches of the Miami team are found to have coronavirus. And so, they had to suspend some games. And the Yankees and Phillies are suspending a game. And, you know, it's all a mess, right? And whether or not we're even going to be able to have baseball is a question, so clearly, the presidential debate is going to be affected. You're not going to have a big live audience. It's going to be small and socially distant. But it is interesting that at this point, both Trump and Biden are planning to move ahead with a series of debates, given how unprecedented this campaign has been with it all about Trump and Biden essentially suspending anything that looks like a rally. A lot of the campaigning happening from videos from his basement. It was conceivable that one or both sides would disagree on format, number, or even whether they should have presidential debates. That's not going to happen. I do think that the expectations from Trump of Biden have been set so low, so sleepy, so low energy, so incapable, so incoherent, that if Biden has a reasonable showing, he's likely to come off comparatively a little hit. And that's, again, Biden's strategy is, this needs to all be about Trump. And so far, Trump is making that comparatively easy for him to do.


India is blocking more Chinese apps. How serious are tensions between the two countries?

Well, I mean, they're not serious in the sense that these are two nuclear powers, and no one's really concerned that they're going to go to war against each other. In other words, India-Pakistan years ago when they had their serious tensions in the months after 9/11, you'll remember people were concerned, might we be at the precipice of a regional nuclear war? Nobody is thinking about that with the Indians and the Chinese. Chinese massively outgun the Indians militarily and the Indians are standing down militarily. But the Indians are leaning in economically. It is largely about Indian nationalism. It's very widely popular for Narendra Modi in India, much as the unilateral decision to abrogate the autonomy for Kashmir was very popular domestically. And so, I think the economic tensions between the two countries are likely going to grow a lot of insecurity. And on the tech side is where you're particularly seeing it.

What's going on in Malaysia?

Well, the former prime minister, Najib, has been found guilty of corruption. About $10 million looks to have been siphoned to him illegally through the 1MDB, the former sovereign wealth fund that Goldman Sachs got caught up in, and they have to pay big fines and the US government's involved, and it's all really ugly. It's first time a former Malaysian prime minister has been so sentenced for corruption. There will be an appeal, surely, but I don't think it's going anywhere. The defense has been pretty bad. Doesn't really lead to a lot of instability in Malaysia, though.

How is this year's Hajj different from past pilgrimages?

Well, not a lot of people, right? I mean, you know, basically a tiny number of folks being allowed to the Hajj. And this was quite controversial in Saudi Arabia, but they saw that in other countries where they weren't suspending mass prayers, Pakistan in the early days in particular, you saw a massive explosion of cases. There's real concern about that in Saudi Arabia and so one of the most conservative societies in the region, but with a leader, Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince, who is very happy to take on religious authorities on issues that he thinks are problematic for Saudi economic development, like, for example, ending the autonomy for the military police, the religious police who no longer have the ability to, you know, sort of walk the streets and harass citizens for breaches of religious law, that's been a pretty meaningful change, saying that we're going to shut down the Hajj to all but a few pilgrims because we want to make sure that we don't have further outbreak, something that other Saudi leaders would have had a harder time with, MBS did not. So, you know, it's a dual-edged sword, as it were, in Saudi Arabia. There've been a lot of problems on human rights with this leadership, but also a lot of ability to go after the religious authorities. And on this front, the Saudis will likely benefit from it.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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