Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

State elections in Bavaria: Fresh off Oktoberfest celebrations, voters in Germany’s southeastern state of Bavaria head to the polls in a statewide election on Sunday that is likely to deal a blow to the governing CSU party—a key partner of Chancellor Merkel’s center-right CDU in the national government. The Bavarian CSU has taken a hit ever since picking – and losing – a fight with the canny Ms. Merkel over border controls earlier this year. But if the CSU fares poorly this weekend, Merkel herself could end up on the ropes: she needs their support to maintain her governing coalition, and there are already calls for her to step down early in order to make way for a new generation of center-right leaders.


Cocaine hippos: In honor of Willis, Signal’s zoographer-in-chief: Four hippopotamuses once owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar have spawned dozens of wild offspring since his killing in 1993, posing a tricky dilemma for the Colombian government. On the one hand, the hippos – a species not native to South America – may have a serious impact on the ecosystems of the rivers and lakes where they now splash, yawn, and chill. On the other hand, culling, moving, or castrating these “cocaine hippos” is both controversial and dangerous (just you try it). For now, the hippos are being left to their own devices – but they are closely watched by both scientists and Signalists alike.

Bonus Hippo material: Speakers of Egyptian Arabic will recall that the dialect term for hippo translates literally as “Mister Cream” – so spare a thought, if you will, for these “Colombian cocaine mister creams.”

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s claims that he’s feeling just fine: Nothing to see here, according to the Filipino strongman, who recently emerged from a surprise trip to the hospital with news that he was “not yet cancerous.” But all signs are that Duterte is making arrangements for a successor in the event that he’s unable to serve out his full term. His allies have introduced a constitutional reform that would temporarily skip over the vice president and put the president of the Senate – a key ally named Tito Sotto – next in line of succession. At the same time, Duterte ally Bongbong Marcos (son of former dictator Fernando and his shoe-crazed wife Imelda) is seeking to invalidate the election of the current vice president Leni Robredo, a Duterte opponent, and to take her place.

China’s application to join the Trade Deal Formerly Known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Beijing is reportedly looking into joining the new 11-nation trade agreement that emerged after President Trump pulled the US out of the original TPP pact last year. China didn’t apply for membership during previous rounds of negotiations – the original TPP was, after all, intended to contain China’s economic influence in Asia. But with the US gone and trade tensions with Washington rising, at least one well-placed Beijing academic thinks China may be looking to the pact as a way to shield itself from an increasingly hostile US. Still, it seems pretty safe to write this one off as posturing – a state-dominated economy like China would struggle to live up to the standards required in the agreement.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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