Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

The Lula ruling — An appeals court in Brazil announced this week that it will rule on January 24 on whether corruption charges against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will stand. If so, he can’t run in next October’s presidential election. Even if his chances of winning the election may be overrated, his name on the ballot would have a big impact on the race.


BBC Elsewhere — Without this invaluable website, your Friday author wouldn’t know that The Republic of The Gambia now claims that a written agreement that grants land to be used for a restoration of the Russian monarchy is a “false and faked document.” We would never have heard of“Arch Chancellor Prince Anton Bakov,” a man who claims to be Prime Minister of the Romanov Empire. Nor would I know that tourists who dress as Mario-kart video game characters while driving go-karts around Tokyo are now required to wear seat belts.

Saudi cinema — We’re pleased to see that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s cultural opening will allow Saudis to return to movie theaters for the first time since the late 1970s. We’ll be watching to see how long it takes Saudi moviegoers to figure out just how many Star Wars episodes they’ve missed.

What We're Ignoring

“For Mexico In Front” — The conservative National Action Party (PAN) joined forces this week with the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens Movement party. At this point, the new coalition, known as “For Mexico in Front,” looks set for third place in next July’s presidential election behind the PRI and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party.

The 2018 Putin Calendar — Thanks for the sexy calendar Vladimir Vladimirovich, and Merry Christmas to you too. Thanks especially for keeping your shirt on this year. But you have to stop sending us these things. We get it. You’re dreamy. You don’t have to prove this every December.

Shen Yun — If you live in a big US city, you’ve probably seen the posters of leaping Chinese women, the colorful flowing robes, and the promise of “art that connects Heaven and Earth.” But for the 13th year in a row, we’re skipping Shen Yun. It’s not because the Chinese government says these self-proclaimed “elite Chinese artists” are the Falun Gong’s dance troupe and a carefully choreographed bid to subvert Chinese Communist Party rule through subversive kitsch. Nope, we’re not going for the same reason we never went to River Dance. Happy-looking dancers are boring. Dancers should look sad until the curtain call. That’s a rule. Fred Astaire is the only exception. And the Nicholas Brothers.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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As COP26 nears, the need for real climate action has never been more urgent. There are reasons for hope, but many scientists believe the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is unattainable without immediate and significant change. Governments, financial institutions, and private sector companies alike have all recognized the need for a multistakeholder approach to solving this crisis of a lifetime.

Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the continent's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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