Then and Now: Sudan's transition, US-China trade war, Nigeria's election

Then and Now: Sudan's transition, US-China trade war, Nigeria's election

3 months ago: Sudan's transition In August, GZERO checked in on Sudan's former strongman Omar al-Bashir who had been put on trial for corruption after being deposed by mass protests against his three-decade long dictatorship. The trial is ongoing and has revealed damning details such as al-Bashir's receiving tens of millions in cash from the Saudi Crown Prince, but his years of alleged crimes against humanity have not been reckoned with, and there seems little chance of his facing justice before the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Meanwhile, Sudan's political transition is still in flux. The first post-Bashir cabinet, a joint civilian-military body, took office in September. It is supposed to oversee a three and a half year transition period until general elections. But this power-sharing arrangement, which preserves elements of the old guard, hasn't placated everyone. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets this month protesting the enduring influence of al-Bashir's allies in politics, and calling on the government to ramp up investigations into those who went missing when security forces brutally cracked down on protesters in the capital, Khartoum, in June. Now, as Sudan's economy teeters on the brink of collapse, the government is focused on getting Sudan removed from the US sponsors of terrorism list, which would open it up to investment and debt relief. The US says that could happen, but not immediately.

6 months ago: What comes next in the US-China trade war? Six months ago, the stakes of the ongoing US-China trade war peaked again when China, responding to a bout of US tariffs on Chinese goods, imposed retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of American products, as we noted here. Not to be outdone, the Trump administration upped the ante again, responding with fresh tariffs of its own and threatening to extend its tariffs by December 15 to virtually everything America buys from China. But President Trump's inconsistent signals on tit-for-tat penalties have created confusion about what might come next. Last month, Presidents Xi and Trump said they were willing to sign a partial trade deal – a temporary truce– that would see the US roll back some tariffs in return for Beijing ending a freeze on purchases of some US agricultural products. But now, four weeks later, the talks are shrouded in uncertainty because of disagreements over what should be included in the final text. But even if a partial deal is reached that reverses the escalations of the past few months, the US and China will still be in tension over deeper issues, including China's support for state companies, its extortion of technology from American firms, and its bid to become the global leader in advanced technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence.

9 months ago: Nigeria's uninspiring election Back in February we contemplated the uncertainty surrounding Nigeria's upcoming elections – the first since a landmark peaceful transfer of power that had served as a model for the entire region. This spring, Nigerians reelected incumbent president and former military leader Muhammadu Buhari, who came away with 56% of the vote. The former military leader has attempted to rebrand himself as a "converted democrat" but oppressive tendencies have proven hard to give up. Since Buhari's reelection, repression of journalists has drawn increasing international concern. Buhari has failed to tackle allegations of corruption against his political allies, while using his anti-graft agenda to crack down on political opponents. Meanwhile, jihadist terror has spread across large swathes of the country, and the locally grown Boko Haram militant group has extended its reach. When Buhari recently departed for a personal overseas trip, believed to be for medical reasons, he refused to hand over temporary authority to his deputy, which many said violated the constitution. Nigeria's democracy is young and delicate. Buhari is testing its limits.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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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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