What We're Watching: Bolsonaro on the ropes, Georgian nightmare, Pandora's box opened?

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a ceremony to mark 1000 days in government at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil September 27, 2021.

Is Bolsonaro on the ropes for good this time? Tens of thousands of Brazilians hit streets across the country in recent days calling for the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro. For months, pockets of anti-Bolsonaro sentiment have been bubbling nationwide, but now a record 58 percent of people polled say his performance is "bad" or "very bad." Soaring prices for electricity, food, and medicine have added to lingering discontent with right-winger Bolsonaro's disastrous handling of the pandemic. And a scandal over potential corruption in vaccine procurements hasn't helped either. Bolsonaro can still count on the unwavering support of about a quarter to a third of the population, and he has strong loyalty among cops and soldiers. But as discontent spreads, it's looking less and less likely that he'll be able to defeat his presumptive rival in next year's presidential election: the leftwing former president Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva. Current polls suggest Bolsonaro is in for a drubbing, but if so, will he accept defeat?


Panama Papers 2.0: You may recall the giant leak of financial documents in 2016 known as the Panama Papers, which exposed financial misdeeds and corruption among the global elite. The revelation prompted the resignations of several government figures and hundreds of criminal probes. Now, five years later, another trove of documents, the Pandora Papers, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and published by the Washington Post, reveals tax dodging and criminal activities linked to global heavyweights, including 14 current national leaders. Here are some of the revelations: the unassuming US state of South Dakota is now a haven for those trafficking in financial secrecy; Jordan's King Abdullah II secretly spent over $100 million on luxury homes in California; allies of Pakistan's PM Imran Khan have stashed millions of dollars offshore. All together, the Pandora Papers identify more than 29,000 illegal offshore accounts, more than double what was identified in the document dump five years ago. Given that the global economy is still in the throes of a pandemic-fueled crisis, we're watching to see what the fallout might be — if any — as angry voters demand answers.

Georgia on our mind: The flamboyantly fearless political showman Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested just hours after returning home to Georgia to support his own party in hotly contested local elections. Saakashvili — who led a pro-Western revolution in 2004 and was Georgia's president until 2013 — had been in exile for almost a decade, a period during which he lived a bachelor's life in Brooklyn and then served in the post-Maidan Ukrainian government. And yet he remains a major opposition figure in Georgia, where his political party continues to square off bitterly against the ruling, Russia-friendly Georgia Dream party. A crisis now looms because, per a compromise brokered earlier this year by the US and EU, this weekend's elections were meant as a nationwide litmus test for whether to call new snap national elections. The Georgian Dream party claims to have won by a big enough margin to avoid that, but international observers have called the result into question, fueling grievances of Saakashvili and his party. Saakashvili — who once responded to arch-enemy Vladimir Putin's threat to hang him "by the balls" by saying "he doesn't have enough rope" — is reportedly on hunger strike, and the politically volatile Caucasian country of 4 million is on edge, again.

In a new episode of That Made All the Difference, Savita Subramanian, head of ESG Research, BofA Global Research, explains why ESG factors are critical to why some companies succeed and some fail.

"I think 10 years from now, we won't even call it 'environmental, social and governance,' or ESG investing. We won't call it sustainable. It'll just be part of investing," she says.

Link to the episode here.

Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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Right now, only one region of the world is reporting an increase in new daily COVID cases. Here's a hint: it's one of the places where vaccines are, for the most part, easiest to get.

It's Europe. According to the World Health Organization, the region last week notched a 7 percent uptick in new daily infections, the third week in a row that infections rose there.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

How are Democrats going to finance their $2 trillion spending bill?

Well, I don't know. And the Democrats don't know either. The original idea was to undo a lot of the Trump tax cuts from 2017. This is a very unpopular tax bill that every Democrat voted against, but moderate Senator Kyrsten Sinema told the White House earlier this month that she's against any and all tax rate increases. This takes the top individual income tax rate going up off the table. And it takes the top corporate rate going up off the table. And it probably takes capital gains rates going up off the table. So, now the Democrats are scrambling to backfill that revenue that they can no longer raise through rate increases with other ideas. One of those ideas is a tax on the unrealized gains of billionaires.

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The US is the world's largest economy. It's also the only one among the top 10 that has no national paid parental leave scheme. If you or your partner have a baby in the US the message is clear: you're on your own. Compare that to many European countries, which offer cushy paid leave schemes for new parents – more generously for women. Even countries that don't have a robust social safety net offer paid parental leave in some form. We take a look at how the US stacks up on paid parental leave (or lack thereof) compared to the world's largest economies.

From overall health and wellness to representation in the global workforce, women and girls have faced serious setbacks over the past 18+ months. They also hold the key to more robust and inclusive growth in the months and years ahead: McKinsey & Company estimates that centering recovery efforts on women could contribute $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

On October 28th at 12pm ET, as part of our "Measuring What Matters" series, GZERO Media and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will look beyond traditional indicators of economic recovery to examine COVID-19's impact on girls and women, specifically in the areas of health and employment.

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How can we go from "fine words" to "fine deeds" at the upcoming COP26 climate summit in Glasgow? For Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Program, it's actually quite simple. The world's top 20 economies, she says, are responsible for over three-quarters of global carbon emissions, so if they "make the requisite shifts, frankly we are out of the climate crisis." Watch her interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World.

On 30-31 October, the world's top leaders will gather in Rome for this year's G-20 Summit. After the pandemic forced them to meet last year by videoconference, the heads of state will once again be attending in person, allowing for the type of parallel, one-on-one meetings that have proven more productive in the past. Still, many critics of the G-20 have come to see the forum as a talk shop, a place where a lot is said but nothing really happens. Will this year be any different, given the long list of challenges the world faces, from COVID to climate change? We talked with Eurasia Group expert Charles Dunst to set the stage and find out where things are going.

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