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.

Advancing global money movement for everyone, everywhere

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Even with innovations in fintech and digital payments, roadblocks related to basic infrastructure like electricity and internet connectivity still prevent many migrant workers from being able to transfer money to their families back home with a truly digital end-to-end flow. While more workers can send money digitally today, the majority of people still receive funds in cash. Read more about why public-private partnerships are key to advancing the future of global money movement and why it matters from experts at the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute.

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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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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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 does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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