Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.
September 19, 2020
News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.
<p>A few thoughts.</p><p>First, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/18/politics/congress-fight-rgb-seat/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Mitch McConnell</a> have already made clear they will <strong>move quickly toward a Senate vote</strong> to confirm a replacement before the election. Neither man cares about arguments that they should wait until after the election to move forward. Trump will name the nominee within days, and McConnell will begin lining up the votes. Four years ago, McConnell <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/mitch-mcconnell-antonin-scalia-supreme-court-nomination-219248" target="_blank">refused</a> to give a vote to Obama's pick to replace deceased Justice Antonin Scalia because it was an election year, although for McConnell that argument doesn't apply now.</p><p>Second, this may <strong>set the scene for large-scale protests in many American cities</strong>. As for the election itself, this fight, however it plays out, is only likely to increase enthusiasm among voters on both sides by reminding them of the larger stakes that come with a lifetime appointment that can swing the ideological balance of a divided court. The partisan battle over the 2018 confirmation of Justice <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/06/us/politics/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Brett Kavanaugh</a> could be child's play compared to what could happen if Republicans try to confirm a nominee before the election, or even after it (especially if Trump loses). </p><p>Third, there will be <strong>no replacement for Ginsburg until a nominee can get 50 votes in the Senate</strong>. Of the 53 Republican senators, <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/politics/lisa-murkowski-ruth-bader-ginsburg-would-not-vote-confirm-supreme-court-nominee" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Lisa Murkowski</a> (Alaska) and <a href="https://twitter.com/jmartNYT/status/1307112333253148672" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Susan Collins</a> (Maine) have said in the past they don't believe a nominee should be rushed through close to an election. There are other names to watch, including a few in <a href="https://www.axios.com/senate-seats-election-2020-54bee405-7f43-456c-936f-5bc75758bc59.html" target="_blank">close races</a> for re-election that might benefit by saying no to Trump. There is also Mitt Romney (Utah), the man who has emerged as Trump's most frequent <a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/05/mitt-romney-lone-gop-critic-donald-trump-coronavirus" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Republican critic</a>. </p><p>Fourth, here's the <strong>potential wildcard</strong>: The Constitution stipulates that there must be a Supreme Court, but it doesn't specify how many judges it should include. There have been more than nine justices in the past. </p><p>In theory, if Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins the election and Democrats win a majority in the Senate, Biden could nominate six new justices of his own for a 15-judge court. When <a href="https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/how-fdr-lost-his-brief-war-on-the-supreme-court-2" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Franklin Delano Roosevelt</a> tried this ploy in 1937, it failed and dealt his presidency a heavy political blow. But 1937 is not 2020, and Biden might succeed where Roosevelt failed. </p><strong>The bottom line</strong>: The death of Justice Ginsburg is a major plot twist for what has so far been a remarkably stable election, and it will reverberate through American politics for years to come.
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September 19, 2020
Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in US politics this week:
So, the scriptwriters for 2020 have thrown as a real curveball, introducing the most explosive element in US politics, just six weeks before the election. The tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be remembered as a trailblazing jurist, but also a reliably liberal vote on a court that was divided along ideological lines with a five-four conservative majority. This has the potential to upend the presidential election. And likely will motivate turnout on both sides. But also, importantly for president, Trump could remind some Romney voting ex-Republicans who were leaning towards Biden why they were Republicans in the first place. Which means that it has the potential to push some persuadable voters back towards the president.
<p>Ginsburg's seat is very unlikely to be filled before the election. That is a nightmare scenario for vulnerable Senate Republicans like Susan Collins from Maine, who's already in a lot of trouble in her home state for her vote in favor of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's last Supreme Court nominee. But after the election, anything goes. The president's very likely to put forward a nominee who will be a reliable conservative, sometime in the next couple of days. And should he lose this election and push forward with this nominee anyway, which I would expect to happen, you're likely to see high levels of civil unrest that will make the summer's protests look like a Sunday afternoon tea party. </p><p>So, this is a truly explosive issue that has the potential to upend both a presidential election, but also US politics and the balance of power in the Supreme Court for a long time. </p><p>Thanks for watching. This has been US Politics In a little over 60 Seconds. </p>
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September 20, 2020
(Some) Thais fed up with royals: In their largest show of force to date, around 18,000 young Thai activists took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the government and demand sweeping changes to the country's powerful monarchy. The protesters installed a gold plaque declaring that Thailand belongs to the Thai people, not the king — a brazen act of defiance in a country where many view the sovereign as a god and offenses against the royal family are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Activists also got the royal guards to accept a letter addressed to King Vajiralongkorn with their proposed reforms. We're watching to see if the Thai government — made up mostly of the same generals who took over in a 2014 coup and then stage-managed last year's election to stay in power — continues to exercise restraint against the activists. So far, some protest leaders have been detained but they are growing bolder in their defiance of the military and the royal family, the two institutions that have dominated Thai politics for decades. Prime Minister and former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is in a tough spot: many young and liberal Thais will hate him if he cracks down hard on the peaceful protesters, but not doing so would make him look weak in the eyes of his power base of older, more conservative Thais who still venerate the monarchy and are fine with the military calling the shots in politics.
<p><strong>A Tuscan takeover? </strong>Italians are currently voting in a series of regional elections seen as the first major electoral test since the pandemic hit. Voters have generally supported Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's handling of the crisis, but the center-left coalition he leads — the Democratic Party coupled with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement — has had trouble uniting behind candidates at the local level. The results will come later today, and we are watching mainly to see how far-right former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's Lega party does. Salvini has been out of the government since botching a bid to force fresh elections almost a year ago, but he has used the pandemic to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/world/europe/coronavirus-italy-migrants.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">amplify his anti-immigrant message</a> and criticize the government's handling of the crisis. Although the party has <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-graphic-truth-eu-populist-parties-weather-covid-storm" target="_self">lost some popularity</a> at the national level, the Lega and its allies are already expected to win at least three of the seven regional leaderships up for a vote. And it has already won 8 out of 9 regional elections held since 2018. Keep a <a href="https://www.thelocal.it/20200918/why-the-rest-of-italy-is-watching-tuscanys-regional-elections-closely" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">close eye in particular on Tuscany</a>, where Salvini's party has already made strong local inroads in a region that has been run by the left for half a century.</p>
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Hard Numbers: Peruvian leader beats impeachment, getting everyone online, Belarus police hacked, Afghan civilians killed
September 20, 2020
32: Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra survived an impeachment vote on Friday after only 32 out of 130 lawmakers supported his removal for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. Vizcarra was in peril just a week ago, but the case for impeachment lost steam after the president was backed by the military and influential opposition leaders who insist the country needs stability to fight COVID-19.
<p><strong>428 billion:</strong> The world needs about $428 billion to connect the whole global population to the internet by the end of the decade, according to a new <a href="https://www.itu.int/en/mediacentre/Pages/PR16-2020-ITU-publishes-Connecting-Humanity-study.aspx" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">study</a> by the International Telecommunications Union. Half of that investment would go towards upgrading existing infrastructure, and the rest to build new connections for offline residents in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.</p><p><strong>1,000: </strong>Anonymous hackers <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election/hackers-leak-personal-data-of-1000-belarusian-police-on-weekend-of-protests-idUSKCN26B09X" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">leaked</a> the personal data of about 1,000 Belarusian police officers accused of cracking down on activists protesting against embattled President Alexander Lukashenko. The loyalty of the security forces is crucial for <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/belarus-protesters-vs-psycho-3" target="_self">Lukashenko</a> — who was reelected over a month ago in a vote the opposition says was rigged — to stay in power.</p><strong>24: </strong>At least 24 civilians, including six children, are believed to have <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/witnesses-afghan-government-airstrikes-kill-24-civilians/2020/09/20/726c5988-fb2a-11ea-b0e4-350e4e60cc91_story.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">died</a> in Afghan government airstrikes against a Taliban-controlled town in northern Kunduz province, which Kabul initially said had killed around 30 Taliban fighters. Both sides are currently engaged in <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/a-tenuous-deal-in-afghanistan" target="_self">peace talks</a> in Qatar that aim to bring an end to over two decades of conflict in Afghanistan.
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