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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!

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream