Vladimir Putin, and other Iowa winners (and losers)

Vladimir Putin, and other Iowa winners (and losers)

After a day and a night (and most of a day) of technical difficulties, lousy communication, and general bewilderment, the Iowa Democratic Party finally released a batch of caucus results yesterday. With results in from 71% of Iowa's precincts, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has so far won the most delegates, followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden. We will know more over the course of the day, but right off the bat, here are three winners and three losers.

Winner #1: Pete Buttigieg who proved he can win an election outside of South Bend, Indiana, and a primary at that (OK, a caucus.)



Winner #2: Vladimir Putin When the infrastructure of American democracy fails, nobody loves it more than the President of Russia. To be clear, there's no evidence of any hacking in Monday's Iowa Caucus – but there doesn't need to be. Colossal electoral screw-ups like this make Americans doubt the legitimacy of their own institutions and bolster Putin's longstanding gripe that no one should be taking democracy lessons from Washington.

Winner #3: Michael Bloomberg The media mogul and former New York City mayor has made $60 billion off of communications technology that, unlike the Iowa caucus app, actually works. The Iowa fiasco may also help his strategy of skipping the early small-state primaries to focus on larger ones later on. True, he's polling in the single digits, but now he's doubling down on spending, and a poor showing by establishment centrist candidate Joe Biden clears some space for him.

So much for the winners. Now to those on the other side of the gym.

Loser #1: Joe Biden, who finds himself up against a wall early, after an unexpectedly weak fourth-place showing. He could still bounce back – he is highly competitive in a number of upcoming primaries including Nevada (Feb 22), South Carolina (Feb 29), and several Super Tuesday states (March 3) – but unless he starts winning soon, Smokin' Joe is going to look more like Joe Smokin'.

Loser #2: The Democratic Party. The party's incompetence on Monday night created an international embarrassment that Republicans will easily exploit. President Trump has already asked voters whether they'd entrust their health care system to people who can't count the number of people in a gym. His son suggested Democrats had fixed the results to hide a Bernie Sanders victory. That's a charge that some Sanders supporters might believe, given evidence that party officials tried to tip the 2016 nomination process away from Sanders toward Hillary Clinton. All of which makes the Dems look unfit and deeply divided at the worst possible moment.

Loser #3: Iowa. Why are Iowa Democrats and Republicans allowed to hold the first nominating contest every four years? Because that's how it's been done for decades. That might end after this year. For one thing, this wasn't Iowa's first screw-up. In 2012, Iowa Republicans declared Mitt Romney their winner before explaining two weeks later that votes had been miscounted and Rick Santorum had actually won. What's more, Iowa's demographics don't match the nation's well, and its caucus process is starting to look a little quaint. After years of complaints about the state's privileged status, Monday might just be the last straw.

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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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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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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

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

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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35.4: The US has overtaken China as the country with the largest share of the world's Bitcoin mining networks, now accounting for 35.4 of the global mining presence. This comes after the Chinese government banned domestic cryptocurrency mining operations to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction.

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