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Then and Now: Hong Kong and Lebanon in turmoil, Ramaphosa on the spot

Then and Now: Hong Kong and Lebanon in turmoil, Ramaphosa on the spot

Three months ago: Lebanon in turmoil Three months ago we unpacked countrywide protests over corruption and the economy that brought Lebanon's capital, Beirut, to a standstill. At the time, thousands of protesters called in particular for reforms to Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, which currently gives the country's top jobs to people based on their religion. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, and has since been replaced by Hassan Diab, a university professor who has the backing of the powerful Shia Hezbollah party – designated a terrorist group by the United States – but not the Sunni-bloc. This will make it hard for him to unify the country and secure the Western aid needed to rescue Lebanon's teetering economy. Diab has appointed a new, ostensibly technocratic cabinet in a bid to meet protesters' demands for a break from the old guard. But thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again this week, decrying the new ministers' connections to the political elite. Meanwhile, as the political crisis deepens, Lebanon's economy is on the brink of collapse: Banks are tightening restrictions on foreign currency withdrawals, fueling more public rage.


Six months ago: Hong Kong's enduring protests Back in August, we checked in on the increasingly ferocious protests in Hong Kong, which had been going on for about eight weeks. What started as a rebuke of legislation that would allow extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China has since morphed into an enormous, sometimes violent, political movement in defense of Hong Kongers' political liberties. Despite the fact that the size of protests has waned in recent months, protesters aren't giving up. Thousands of black-clad demonstrators have continued to flood the streets, demanding greater autonomy from Beijing, as well as investigations into police brutality. Meanwhile, Hong Kong police have used increasingly militant tactics to break-up crowds, including live ammunition. The recent coronavirus outbreak brings a new dimension to the seemingly intractable conflict. On one hand, it's revived Hong Kongers' resentment of the mainland: More than 7,000 health workers took part in a strike this week calling on Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, to seal the entire border with China, something she's long resisted. But the outbreak, which has spread in Hong Kong, also makes it impossible to hold mass gatherings. Chinese officials have called protestors "terrorists," and have amassed forces across the border. But eight months later, it's still not clear if Beijing has a red line, and what it would take from protesters to trigger a full-blown Chinese military intervention.

Nine months ago: Cyril Ramaphosa faces the heat As we wrote after President Cyril Ramaphosa's electoral triumph last May, the leader of South Africa's African National Congress party (ANC) faced enormous challenges in trying to revive the country's flailing economy, plagued by decades of crooked leadership. When Ramaphosa took over as party chief from Jacob Zuma, the disgraced former president facing a host of corruption charges, he pledged to bring "ethics into politics," and to oversee South Africa's economic revival. While Ramaphosa has made some effort to ignite growth – such as "embarking on a $100 billion investment drive in five years – South Africa's economy is still on the brink. The IMF and World Bank recently urged radical reform to avoid a recession as the country grapples with spotty electricity supply problems, weak business sentiment, sky-high youth unemployment, and the worst drought in living memory. Ramaphosa's attempt at reform has largely been hampered by competing factions within the ANC itself – so far, he's failed to consolidate control of the party to meet the country's enormous challenges.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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