10 Questions For 2018

10 Questions For 2018

1- What happens when Mueller calls that news conference?

President Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller are on a collision course. Latest reports indicate the investigation may continue well into next year, but that depends mainly on the willingness of witnesses to cooperate. At some point, Mueller will issue a public statement on what his team has found. That will trigger the most dramatic confrontation in US politics since Richard Nixon waved goodbye in 1974.


2- Will Democrats gain control of Congress?

The Senate remains a longshot for Democrats, despite their shock win last month in Alabama. The Dems need a net gain of just two seats in November, but they must defend 26, including 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016, while Republicans will defend just eight. Dems have a better shot at the House. The bottom line: A big Democratic wave is much more likely in 2020 than in 2018, but the current Republican margin is slim enough, and Trump has antagonized enough Republican senators, that he won’t have a post-tax cut working majority anyway.

3- Has North Korea changed the game?

Pyongyang has now tested a missile that some experts think can reach most of the US. Carrots and sticks, US or Chinese, have made no difference. US warnings of military action aren’t credible. We open 2018 with an uneasy new status quo.

4- How bad will US-Chinese relations get?

President Trump has discovered that China can’t/won’t lift him to victory over North Korea, and his administration will turn up pressure on Beijing in 2018. We got a preview of that this week with the unveiling of Trump’s new National Security Strategy, which asserts that China and Russia want to “challenge American power, influence and interests, [and] to erode American security and prosperity.” A full-on trade war is unlikely, but expect an early frost in US-China relations in 2018.

5-What will next generation fake news look like?

In December 2016, a rifle-toting North Carolina man, tipped off by reports on the Internet, marched into a pizzeria in Washington in search of evidence that the restaurant was hosting an underground pedophile ring run by Hillary Clinton. Advances in video fakery will ensure the fake news problem gets worse in 2018. The most egregious lies will fool only the weakest minds, but the more sophisticated the tech gets, the more likely that even discerning people will mistakenly throw out true stories with the false ones.

6- Will Europe face an East-West divide this year?

Yes, but there’s a limit to how much damage it will inflict on an otherwise (surprisingly) healthy EU. This week, the EU launched unprecedented disciplinary measures against Poland in response to judicial “reforms” that appear designed to pack Poland’s highest courts with judges friendly to the ruling party. Poland’s government has responded with defiance. The EU has limited leverage here, because the toughest punishments, including a suspension of Poland’s EU voting rights, require a unanimous vote of EU members. Hungary’s government, also angry at Brussels, will veto any such move. And there’s little public demand in Poland (or Hungary) for withdrawal from the EU.

7- Is Mexico headed left?

Who will become Mexico’s next president? Leftist populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO)? Technocrat Jose Antonio Meade? Upstart Ricardo Anaya? NAFTA negotiations will play in the background, but this will be a battle over which candidate can persuade voters that he’s the man to kickstart the economy, fight crime, and clean up government. AMLO looks to have the edge as July 1 approaches.

8- How crazy will Brazil’s election get?

Here’s the country most likely to elect an outsider president. After years of economic pain and political scandal, voters are likely to clear the deck in October. Will courts allow former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to run? That’s the question that will hang over the election.

9- Can Jeremy Corbyn become UK prime minister?

That’s not as improbable as some think. If pro-European Conservatives join with the opposition to defeat whatever Brexit deal Theresa May brings home, there will be an early election, and Jeremy Corbyn will probably win it. It’s not likely, but entirely possible.

10- Can Vladimir Putin beat back a fierce electoral challenge from Ksenia Sobchak to win re-election as Russia’s president?

I like his chances.

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This weekend, world leaders will open the COP26 climate summit, the UN's annual climate change conference, in Glasgow. Some insist this event is crucial to the multinational fight to limit the effects of climate change; others dismiss it as a circus that will feature politicos, protesters and celebrities competing for attention – one that's long on lofty promises and short on substance.

What's on the agenda?

Political leaders and negotiators from more than 120 countries will gather to talk about two big subjects. First, how to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists warn can inflict catastrophic damage on millions of people. This is where they'll offer their "nationally determined contributions," diplomatic jargon for their updated promises on their climate goals. Second, how to help poorer countries pay for adaptation to the climate damage that's already unavoidable.

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What pandemic result will have the largest and longest-lasting impact on women? Is the world really building back better for half the global population? How can we ensure that the post-pandemic recovery is fair to women? And how does this all play into a wider GZERO world? A group of global experts debated these and other questions during a livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, moderated by eNCA senior news anchor Tumelo Mothotoane.

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Iran to resume nuclear talks — but it might be too late. Iran's top negotiator says that his country is now ready to rejoin talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Those negotiations have been on ice since June, when a hardline new Iranian president was "elected." But hopes for a breakthrough are slim. For one thing, Iran and the US still disagree about who should do what first: Tehran wants the toughest US sanctions lifted immediately, while the Americans say no way until Iran stops steaming ahead with its nuclear programs. (For a good primer, check out this Puppet Regime.) The other big obstacle now is that since Donald Trump ditched the deal in 2018, Iran has made immense progress in enriching uranium, breaking through all the limits set by the original agreement. Reviving that pact would now entail forcing the Iranians to give that all up, which Iran's hardline leadership is very unlikely to do, while Washington certainly won't want to write up a new deal that accepts Iran's recent nuclear activity — in fact, the Biden administration is under pressure to impose fresh sanctions. Fresh talks are good, but things don't look promising.

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Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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11: Hit by a massive new COVID wave, Moscow has issued an 11-day lockdown of schools, businesses, and all "non-essential" services. Russia is now one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, having recorded 400,000 deaths by some estimates. Russia's high rate of vaccine skepticism isn't helping.

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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:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company sided pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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No government today has the toolbox to tinker with Big Tech – that's why it's time to start thinking of the biggest tech companies as bona fide "digital nation states" with their own foreign relations, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. Never has a small group of companies held such an expansive influence over humanity. And in this vast new digital territory, governments have little idea what to do.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

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