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Omicron variant unlikely to lead to lockdowns by governments

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the omicron variant, the Honduras presidential election, and the pros and cons of getting stuck in a UK pub for three days in a snowstorm.

As the omicron variant emerges, is a return to lockdown next?

The answer is, only in a few play places, because people are exhausted from lockdowns. They're angry with their governments from doing it. Governments are going to be very reluctant to have the economic hit as a consequence, especially when they know they can't pay out the relief money that they've been paying over the last couple of years, and they're not yet sure about just how much of a danger omicron is. I think all sorts of travel restrictions, but unless and until you see that the spread starts leading to significant lethality, hospitalizations, and once again, the potential for ICUs to be overwhelmed, I do not expect many significant lockdowns that are countrywide at this point. Not least in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the populations are very young and as a consequence, you can have a lot of spread and they're not paying attention to it, frankly.

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Biden sticks with Powell as Fed Chair amid rising inflation

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

Why did President Biden renominate Jay Powell to be the chairman of the Fed, and who's his No.2, Lael Brainard?

Well, Powell by all accounts has done a pretty good job of managing the Fed through the coronavirus pandemic. He dusted off the playbook, first pioneered by Chairman Bernanke during the financial crisis, and he's largely continued the relatively easy monetary policy of his predecessor at the Fed, now Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. With inflation growing the way it has over the last several months, Biden now owns the policies of the Fed and is essentially endorsing what Powell has been doing and giving Powell the political cover to continue to keep rates low for longer, or as many people expect, raise them slightly over the next 12 months in order to fight inflation.

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Peng Shuai, China's tennis star, appears safe but questions remain

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Peng Shuai's public appearance, El Salvador's "Bitcoin City," and Americans' Thanksgiving celebrations.

Why has China silenced its famous tennis player, Peng Shuai?

Well, they haven't completely silenced her in the sense that the head of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee with Beijing Olympics coming up, basically told the Chinese government, "hey, what is the absolute minimum that you can do so that we can get Beijing Olympics back on track?" And they did the absolute minimum, which was a half an hour phone call with her that felt like kind of a hostage phone call. But nonetheless, she says that she is fine and is private and doesn't want to talk about the fact that she had accused the former Vice Premier of sexually assaulting her. That is a fairly heady charge. It was clear, going to get a lot of headlines in the run-up to the Olympics. And she wasn't heard from after that. So big problem for the Chinese in the run-up to the Olympics.

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Europe can show solidarity with Ukraine despite depending on Russian gas

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

Can Europe have solidarity with Ukraine while also being dependent on Russian gas?

Yes, it can. There is no question that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine is of fundamental interest for European security. And you see that both Europeans and America are expressing concerns over what they see as possible moves on the Russian side. And clear signals are being sent in the direction of Moscow irrespective of anything that has to do with gas.

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What's next for infrastructure and Biden's Build Back Better plan?

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

Now that President Biden has signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, what's next for infrastructure?

The President this week signed a significant new investment in infrastructure, about $550 billion beyond the money that's already being spent in the baseline levels for the US infrastructure, and this is a big investment. It about doubles how much money the US spends on infrastructure over the next five years, and the money's going to go to all kinds of places, roads, bridges, tunnels, water projects, broadband deployment for Americans, climate resiliency, electric vehicles. There's a lot of different things that are going to be funded by this pot of cash.

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Republican 2021 election wins

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, discusses the results of the US election on November 2.

What was the warning to Democrats in this week's governor's races?

Yesterday's elections in Virginia and New Jersey were a really bad sign for Democrats. Biden won both those states by 10 points and 16 points respectively just last year. In Virginia, the Republicans are going to win not only the governorship, but the top three spots in state government and take one of the houses of the legislature. And New Jersey, the Republican was way behind in the polls, but came within a hair's breadth of actually winning it.

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Leaders at COP26 pledge to end deforestation by 2030; US election day bets

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at world leaders' deforestation pledge, US election outlooks, and China's "zero COVID" policy.

World leaders are pledging to end deforestation by 2030. What are the updates on COP26?

Well, that is one of the wins. It's the same pledge, but more countries are on board. The Russians, the Chinese, others that weren't before, and also, we're seeing movement on methane reduction pledges. Not as significant in amount as carbon dioxide emissions, but more dangerous in terms of impact on global warming. But the big issue, of course, is that still on carbon into the atmosphere, much lower coordination than you desperately need between north and south, rich and poor, Americans and Chinese. We are very far from where we want to be on that, and there, COP26 is a disappointment.

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From $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion: Cuts to US spending bill mean less money for families

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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