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As billed, US President Donald Trump blasted Iran yesterday in his General Assembly speech, calling on other nations to join Washington in further isolating the Islamic Republic. The ballgame for Trump, as we wrote yesterday, is to force Tehran to agree to a more stringent version of the 2015 Nuclear Deal that the US, alone among its seven signatories, walked out on earlier this year.

The biggest point of leverage that the US has is its dominance of the global financial system, which enables Washington to force European companies to abandon their investments in Iran, even as Brussels pledges, with little effect, to shield them from US measures. When the next round of US sanctions hits Iran in early November, the Belgian-based messaging system that banks use to send money around the world – called SWIFT – will be under intense pressure to cut off Iranian banks even though Europe is opposed to the sanctions. Why? Because refusing to play ball with the US could expose the executives that sit on its board – and the global banks they work for – to US sanctions.

On Tuesday, the Financial Times reported that the US’s main partners in the Iran nuclear deal, the UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia, had agreed to a different approach: establishing an alternative payment system that would allow them to keep doing business with the Islamic Republic despite harsh new US curbs. The details are TBD, but in theory, a rival European payment system could enable interested parties to continue doing business with the Islamic Republic (or anyone else under US sanctions), by routing transactions through an alternative to SWIFT. But here’s the problem: any companies or banks that did so would probably risk US sanctions anyway. It would be risky to assume that the US, at least under Trump, is bluffing on this stuff.

Those practical matters aside, the fact that historically close US allies are joining China and Russia in challenging the 800-pound US financial gorilla is significant. America’s adversaries have long bridled at the US’s outsized influence over the financial system, which gives it a unique ability to inflict economic pain on countries that it disagrees with politically. The fact that the UK, France, and Germany are actively pushing a plan to skirt the US sanctions is a sign of how the US’s more confrontational, America-first approach is creating strange bedfellows.

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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