Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Brazil’s embattled presidential candidates  Think Washington had a crazy political week? Here’s your update from Brazil ahead of next month's presidential election. Former President Lula remains in jail. His likely replacement as Worker’s Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, and center-right candidate Geraldo Alckmin were both charged with corruption. Front-runner Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed at a campaign rally and seriously injured.


Mauricio Macri – Elected in 2015 on the promise to restore Argentina’s economic health, Argentine President Mauricio Macri has imposed just enough austerity to inflict pain on the public without persuading investors the country can meet its financial obligations. A serious meltdown, provoked by conditions both inside and outside his country, has created a currency crisis. The peso has lost half its value against the dollar this year. This week, Macri took drastic action, sharply raising taxes and cutting the number of government ministries by half to reduce spending. The central bank has raised interest rates to 60 percent. Will it be enough? And can he remain a viable candidate for re-election next year while imposing more hardship on voters?

Iran’s oil customers  In anticipation of the return of sanctions on Iran’s oil in November, its exports fell by 18 percent from July to August. That’s in part because, surprisingly, China and India have sharply reduced purchases in line with Donald Trump’s demands. Neither will stop buying Iranian crude altogether, but the degree of compliance was unexpected. That’s not good news for Iran’s economy, or for those who hope Iran might continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear deal without US participation.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

North Korea at 70  China’s Xi Jinping is skipping North Korea’s 70th anniversary celebration this weekend, and we will too. If you’ve seen one goose-stepping military parade followed by a 3,000-person choreographed dance with a flashcard backdrop, you’ve seen them all. Maybe we’ll TIVO it.

Putin TV show – Nor are we likely to watch “Moscow Kremlin Putin,” a new TV show airing on Russian state television that aims to prove Vladimir Putin is even hunkier than we thought. Apparently, Putin remains in great shape, frightens wild animals, and has a “human, sincere attitude toward children.” We know that already.

The Austrian Kangaroo – Your Friday author was not amused when fellow Signalistas forwarded him a story about a kangaroo on the loose in Austria. Not Australia. Austria. “This is the kind of low-brow material you love to include on Fridays,” they seemed to suggest. Yes, I like stories about animals on the loose, but I’m not automatically going to write about a kangaroo hopping around Austria just because it includes great video, and the story is weird. Forget it.

As of this writing, the kangaroo remains at large.

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.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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5,600: Myanmar's military junta will release from prison 5,600 people who were jailed for protesting against last February's coup. The gesture, the first act of amnesty since the junta took power, comes just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which rarely interferes in members' internal affairs, said it would exclude the head of Myanmar's military from an upcoming regional meeting.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, everybody. And a Quick Take for you. I wanted to talk a bit about Taiwan. I'll tell you, I've talked about it in the media over the last couple of weeks and almost every questioner has been trying to prod me towards, "are we heading to war?" Then I was with some friends at the Trilateral Commission on Friday. I like that group a lot. It's one of these groups that a lot of conspiracy theorists pretend secretly run the world, like the Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations. Now having attended all three, I can tell you, if they do run the world, they are not inviting me into the rooms where they're making those decisions. If they are doing that, they're also doing a lousy job of it.

Nonetheless, it was fun until I was on stage and the first question I got was about, "Hey, so the Chinese are changing the status quo. Do you think that means we're heading towards war?" I just want to say that, first of all, I am clearly less concerned about the imminence of confrontation and military conflict between the United States and China than almost anybody out there. Accidents are certainly possible, but particularly around Taiwan, where both sides know the stakes and have made them abundantly clear for decades now, and everyone involved gets it I think it's much less likely.

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Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

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