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What We're Watching: New US Supreme Court justice, Morales can go back to Bolivia, Nile dam talks resume

SCOTUS battle rages on: In a major victory for US President Donald Trump just a week out from the presidential election, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, who was then swiftly sworn into office at a nighttime ceremony at the White House. Barrett, a conservative who was tapped to replace deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just 46 days out from the presidential election, is the first Supreme Court justice to be confirmed in over 150 years without the support of a single member of the minority party. Democrats are furious, saying that Republicans — who blocked Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016, arguing at the time that the seat should only be filled after the next US president was elected some nine months later — have cynically backtracked on their own assertions. Democrats have also called the rushed confirmation process "illegitimate." Pressure is now mounting on Joe Biden (specifically, from the progressive wing of his party) to expand the size of the Supreme Court should he win in November, so Democrats can install liberal justices to offset the crucial court's hard-right shift.

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What We're Watching: Walter Reed's door, Sudan's peace, Nagorno-Karabakh's war

What's next for patient Trump? After four days of confusion about the state of President Trump's health following a positive test for COVID-19, the US President was discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday evening — just 29 days before the US election. Before falling ill (the president reportedly required both oxygen support and a cocktail of experimental medications only used in severe cases of COVID) and being forced off the campaign trail, Trump trailed challenger Joe Biden by significant margins in some important swing states. With just four weeks until Election Day — and millions of Americans already voting by mail — we are watching the pace of President Trump's recovery and how quickly he'll return to his signature large rallies. And if Trump recovers quickly and fully, will his claim of having "beaten the virus" resonate with the undecided voters whose support could help save his campaign?

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The world leaders who love Trump

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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US-China: Temperature rising

Over the past eight days, the US-China relationship got notably hotter. None of the new developments detailed below is big enough by itself to kill hopes for better relations next year, but collectively they point in a dangerous direction.

US jabs over Hong Kong: On September 14, the US State Department issued a travel warning for the city because of what it calls China's "arbitrary enforcement of local laws" by police. The US is closely monitoring the case of 10 people detained by China while attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat. China's response to US criticism of its new security law in Hong Kong remains muted. That could change if relations deteriorate further.

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What does a US troop withdrawal mean for Iraq?

Earlier this year, in response to diplomatic confusion over reports of an abrupt US withdrawal from Iraq, Mark Esper, the US Secretary of Defense, said decisively: "We have no plans to leave Iraq."

Now, eight months later, the Trump administration says it will reduce the number of US forces in the country to 3,000 in the coming weeks — a reduction from the 5,200 currently there. What does the US troop drawdown — and potential eventual full withdrawal — mean for Iraq, the region, and the US?

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