WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Germany’s SPD – Following another local election result that underlines fast-falling support for Germany’s lead center-left party, debate has begun again among some SPD leaders about whether to quit the grand coalition government in which they currently support Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU. That move would very likely force Merkel from power and bring early elections. The predicament for the SPD: It’s easier to regain popularity in opposition than as junior member of government, but true revival will depend on making a credible case for policies that will excite voters. Wounded center-left parties across Europe will be interested to see what the SPD can come up with.


South Sudan – On Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir unveiled a deal he says will end a five-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. The agreement would allow rebel groups to share power with the government. It remains unclear why Kiir believes this deal will succeed where similar deals in the past have failed.

Iran sanctions – Next Monday, the US will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s oil industry. We’re watching not for Iran’s initial reaction, which will be defiant, but for how Iran continues to build constructive relations with other governments to minimize fallout from US action—and how those governments respond to US threats.

Stray Cats living in Portuguese Washing Machines – Because it’s Friday.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

High-minded Wrestlers – When World Wrestling Entertainment kicks off its “Crown Jewel” event at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh later today, two of the organization’s marquee performers won’t be there. Wrestlers John Cena and Daniel Bryan are reportedly boycotting the event to protest the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Contradictory Polling Clues – A new Harvard University survey suggests Americans aged 18-29 are likely to vote in much higher numbers in next week’s midterm elections than the same age group did in 2010 or 2014. Some 40 percent said they will “definitely vote.” Meanwhile, a new PRRI/The Atlantic survey found “little evidence that younger Americans will turn out at historic rates.” Just 35 percent of Americans aged 18-29, compared to 81 percent of seniors (ages 65+) and 55 percent of all Americans, say they’re certain to vote.

A Spectacularly Dumb Dirty Trick – An amateurish attempt to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller unraveled quickly this week. You can read the details here. The FBI is now investigating.

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Does Boris Johnson strengthen or weaken the US-UK relationship?

Well I mean strengthens it in so far as he and Trump like each other. They're both oriented towards Brexit. They're kind of right-wing populists that aren't ideologically moored. But will it last? Boris could flip on a dime on any major issue as can Trump. So it's kind of volatile. Plus they both really love the media and when they're in front of each other with other people the potential to - I mean Boris upsets people and Trump easily takes offense. So this could easily go south.

Will Iran release the captured UK oil tanker?

I mean over time I suspect it will. But remember the UK has an Iranian tanker as well, so it's much more likely they work these things out together even if they're not explicitly linked, than suddenly the Iranians say, "Oh I'm sorry. Here's your tanker"

Will protests continue in Hong Kong?

It certainly seems that way. The question is what will China do about it? Xi Jinping is now saying that they are reaching the danger zone and the ability of the Chinese to hit back and hit back hard is real. I worry about those protesters.

Will Robert Mueller reveal anything new when he testifies on Capitol Hill?

I highly doubt it. He said very clearly that he does not intend to go beyond what was in his report. So Democrats looking for bombshells on collusion or obstruction are likely to be disappointed.

Can President Trump expand his electoral college edge in 2020?

Well he thinks he can. He thinks he can win in places like Minnesota and New Hampshire. I think it's more likely that he just hangs on to the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that got him there in 2016.

Should the governor of Puerto Rico resign?

Absolutely. Governor Rossello should resign. He's lost the confidence of the island. Puerto Rico needs a fresh start particularly after all these terrible text messages. He should definitely resign.

Finally for The Rant: today's rant is on Elizabeth Warren who put out a report today saying the economy is on the brink of collapse. It was very alarmist, certainly there are problems with the economy. Issues that could be fixed but she risks sounding like she's yelling fire in a crowded theater with calls like that.

"A regime willing to kill en masse to stay in power,' Karim Sadjadpour, an expert on Iranian, discusses the challenges facing the rise of democracy within the country.

Avi Loeb, The Chair of Harvard University's Astronomy Department, delves into the search for extraterrestrial life.