GRATE(FUL) LEADERS

GRATE(FUL) LEADERS

On Thanksgiving Day, which always falls on the fourth Thursday of November, Americans gather with family and friends to overeat and give thanks for blessings large and small. Here's Willis Sparks with a few things others can be grateful for.


US President Donald Trump can be thankful that Democratic lawmakers and a (very large) pack of the party's presidential candidates will share the political spotlight with him in 2019. That will take some of the focus off the president and allow Democrats to take a bit more heat as the 2020 elections approach.

The Democrats can be thankful that they now have real power for the first time since Trump was elected president. Starting in January, they'll be able to set a legislative agenda, at least in the House of Representatives, and they'll have subpoena power to investigate the president. But beyond fierce opposition to Trump, can they offer voters a vision of the future worth voting for?

French President Emmanuel Macron can be thankful he has a five-year term and will remain on the job until 2022 no matter how deep his poll numbers dive. A recent survey put his approval rating at just 26 percent, and that was before one person died and 400 were injured in nationwide protests against new fuel taxes. Macron can also be thankful that pressure from Trump is driving Paris and Berlin closer together, though that rapprochement comes at a tough time: he's weak politically and Merkel is preparing to leave office.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May can be thankful that after a week of high Brexit drama and months of relentless criticism there's still no credible alternative to either her Brexit plan or her leadership. For now. Hardline members of May's party are scrambling to get enough votes to oust her in a no-confidence move, but it's a gamble: if they fail, she cannot face another leadership challenge for at least a year; if they succeed, Brexit negotiations will become even more tough—with the opposition Labor party waiting in the wings to pounce.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be thankful that Education Minister Naftali Bennett has decided to keep his Jewish Home party within Netanyahu's governing coalition. Following the resignation last week of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, it appeared Bennett might follow him out of government, undoing Netanyahu's coalition and forcing him to face fresh elections while he is plagued by multiple corruption investigations.

South Africans can be grateful that their governing institutions continue to hold their leaders accountable. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised to clean up corruption within the governing ANC party, agreed last week to repay about $35,000 given to his party leadership campaign by a firm accused of graft. It's an embarrassment for Ramaphosa but a step forward for his country from the administration of former President Jacob Zuma.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman can be thankful that even as he becomes ever more implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, his own father appears to have the last word in whether he stays in line to become king – and dad is on his side for now.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neil can be thankful that his small country benefits from economic and strategic competition between China, the US, and other regional powers. Not only did O'Neil pull off a smooth APEC Summit last week, the US and Australia agreed to invest in a major new military base on one of his country's remote islands. That could give an economic boost to the country of 7.5 million people, where 40 percent live on less than $1.25 per day.

The Italian town of Acquetico, home to 131 people, can be thankful that it recently set up a camera to catch people driving too fast. The camera reportedly nailed 58,568 speeders in just two weeks. We're hoping the fines imposed will raise Acquetico's per capita income by 28,000 percent.

Your Signal team—Kevin Allison, Alex Kliment, Gabe Lipton, and Willis Sparks—are grateful that so many of you around the world continue to read Signal. Thank you very, very much!

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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