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Abe's Final Act

Abe's Final Act

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to take the final step toward becoming Japan's longest serving post-war leader at a critical moment for his country. Tomorrow, Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will likely elect him to a third term as party boss, enabling him to serve out another three years as prime minister.

To get this far, Abe had to beat back a series of summer graft scandals, but with three-quarters of the LDP now back in his corner, the vote should be a shoo-in. The upcoming term will likely be Abe’s last, and he has big ambitions for it.

Here are the three top items on Abe’s agenda:

Rebuilding his cabinet: Abe’s most immediate task will be to take care of lingering issues related to a corruption scandal involving the sale of public lands on preferential terms to an educational group with ties to him and his wife. He’ll aim to shore up support by reshuffling his domestic policy team. But Abe has to step carefully. Any early missteps on personnel could doom his ambitious third-term agenda at just the moment when his approval rating has recovered from record lows earlier this year.

More assertive diplomacy: After repeated snubs from Japan’s closest ally, the US, Abe will continue to look elsewhere for new diplomatic partners. In recent months, Japan has reached out a hand to China, with Abe planning next month to make the first official state visit of a sitting Japanese prime minister to Beijing since 2011. Tokyo sees an opportunity for closer economic ties to China and would like to find opportunities for Japanese companies to work alongside Chinese firms as a part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. There has even been discussion of Abe meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, after being left out in the cold by the US on North Korea negotiations.

On economic diplomacy, Abe took big steps in his last term to deepen Japan’s global trade ties—signing a long-awaited free trade deal with the EU. He’s now focused on finalizing TPP-11, the modified trans-Pacific trade pact that excludes the US, which has so far only been ratified by 3 of the 11 signatories.

A new mission for Japan’s military: The top priority of Abe’s final term is to rewrite Japan’s constitution – which was drafted by the US after World War Two and still forbids it from taking military actions beyond self-defense. With the US pulling back from the region while China’s military ambitions expand, Abe wants greater freedom for Japan to use its military as it sees fit. But around 61 percent of the Japanese public oppose the move, and any permanent change would require majority support in a popular referendum.

The bottom line: Whether Abe starts off his third term on the right foot may well determine if he can deliver on the most ambitious proposal of his political career, amending Japan’s constitution—and one that would fundamentally refashion Japan’s role in the world.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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