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US House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attends a press conference in Washington, DC.

REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

What We’re Watching: McCarthy in trouble, Lula 2.0, global recession fears

Dramatic US House speaker election

Who will replace Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the next speaker of the US House of Representatives? Good question. As members of the 118th Congress are scheduled to be sworn in on Tuesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is still short of the votes necessary to lead the chamber. Even after making a major concession to his GOP critics by allowing them to fire him at any time, a handful of far-right Republicans remain publicly opposed to his speakership. If McCarthy doesn't get at least 218 votes on the first ballot, the lawmakers will continue voting until someone gets a majority. Keep in mind that the speaker sets the legislative agenda and decides which bills make it to the floor, so whoever gets the gig will hold a lot of sway at a time when Republicans aim to use their slim House majority to investigate the Biden administration and stymie the White House on anything from funding the government to continuing US aid for Ukraine.

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Gabriella Turrisi

Hard Numbers: China's fake fishing fleet, forever Obiang, Iran's deadly protests, IMF lending spree

280: China is paying commercial trawlers more than they can make by catching fish to stay anchored for at least 280 days a year in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. This is just one of the many ways China is using civilian ships to augment its naval power and help enforce its maritime claims in the region.

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An FBI photograph of documents and classified cover sheets recovered from former US Pesident Donald Trump's Florida estate.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Trump obstruction evidence, IAEA team in Zaporizhzhia, IMF-Sri Lanka bailout deal

Did Trump conceal top-secret documents?

Donald Trump repeatedly blocked US law enforcement from accessing highly-classified documents stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence (and lied about how many files remained there), according to a scathing new document released Tuesday by the Department of Justice. The filing came in response to a recent request by the former president that the documents — seized from his Florida estate by the FBI on Aug. 8 — be reviewed by a third-party arbiter to decide if any are covered by executive privilege. (The DOJ opposes this on the legal grounds that the records don’t belong to Trump.) It’s the most detailed account to date of the months-long attempt by the National Archives – an independent agency that stores and preserves government records – to obtain classified files Trump took from the White House after the 2020 election. The filing includes a photograph of documents labeled “Top Secret” and claims that some material was so sensitive that some FBI and DOJ personnel required additional security clearances to review them. Crucially, it also states that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation” after Trump’s legal team ignored in the spring a grand jury subpoena seeking all classified documents. A federal court decides Thursday whether the arbiter can be brought in.

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Annie Gugliotta

Hard Numbers: Russian oil stops flowing, Ghana wants more IMF cash, Iran nuclear deal hopes, vinegar wars

0: That's how much Russian oil is currently flowing through the southern Druzhba pipeline, which transits Ukraine and services the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. Although those three EU member states are exempt from the bloc’s ban on Russian oil, Moscow says that EU sanctions made its payments to the Ukrainian operator bounce, so Kyiv shut off the flow on Aug. 4. We are certain there will be more to this story …

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Sergio Massa attends an event after the 2021 midterm elections in Buenos Aires.

REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

What We’re Watching: Argentina’s super minister, China-Zambia debt deal, Ukrainian grain trader dead

Can a "super minister" save Argentina?

Argentina's embattled President Alberto Fernández has appointed Sergio Massa, the influential leader of the lower house of parliament, to head a new "super ministry" that Fernández hopes will help steer the country out of a deep economic crisis. Massa, Argentina's third economic minister in less than a month, will oversee economic, manufacturing, and agricultural policy. He has his work cut out for him owing to soaring inflation, farmers demanding tax relief, and a recent run on the peso. Massa also needs to convince the IMF that Argentina will comply with the terms of its $44 billion debt restructuring deal. There's a political angle too: he's (arguably) the strongest candidate the left-wing Peronista coalition has to run for president next year if the unpopular Fernández drops his bid for a second term. Massa is one of very few politicians who can navigate the ongoing rift between the president and his powerful VP, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. If the new "super minister" does a good job, he'll be in pole position for a 2023 presidential run; if he fails, the ruling Peronistas will face long odds to stay in power.

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Argentina's VP Cristina Fernández de Kirchner waves at supporters next to President Alberto Fernández at the closing campaign rally before the 2021 midterm elections in Buenos Aires.

REUTERS, Paige Fusco

War of the Fernandezes in Argentina

Argentina's leftwing government is led by two people named Fernández: President Alberto Fernández and his vice president, the almost equally powerful former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The two have always been odd bedfellows, and often clash over policy. But lately their disagreements have reached fever pitch, fueling rumors of a split that could hurt the president's reelection odds next year amid a worsening economic crisis: sky-high inflation, a plummeting peso, capital controls, and Argentina's usual piling debt.

Why don't the president and the VP get along, and what does that mean for Argentina's political future? We get some clarity from Eurasia Group's Daniel Kerner and Luciano Sigalov.

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A brass plaque of the State Bank of Pakistan in Karachi.

REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Even if Pakistan defaults, its larger challenges remain

Pakistan is facing default on its sovereign debt.

After Sri Lanka, it’s the latest emerging economy to falter in the wake of COVID, the war in Ukraine, and skyrocketing inflation. But the stakes are higher: Pakistan borders China, India, Iran, and Afghanistan, and it sits at the crossroads of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It’s embroiled in a battle against rising terrorism, and it has nuclear weapons.

But the world’s fifth-most populous country — where 220 million live under a political system plagued by corruption and extremism ± isn’t just broke. Polarized and isolated, it’s going through a period of instability not seen since its civil war in 1971, when it lost a majority of its population as East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh.

A serious rethink is needed about the way Pakistan manages itself and its diplomacy. So, are its rulers making the right adjustments?

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