What We're Watching: A Dammed Denial in the Nile

What We're Watching: A Dammed Denial in the Nile

Britain's Supreme Court – The UK's Supreme Court will rule as soon as the end of this week on whether it was unlawful for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament for several weeks during a critical period ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline. A court in Scotland said it was, arguing that Johnson misled the Queen into suspending Parliament in order to limit MPs' ability to block Johnson's plans to lead the UK out of the EU with a deal or not. But a court in England took the government's position that none of this is for the courts to decide. So now the highest court in the land will rule on the matter. The wily Johnson says he'll abide by what the justices say. Let's see. (Weird trivia: the UK has had a Supreme Court for only ten years.)


Denial of The Nile – Ethiopia, one of the world's fastest growing economies, has been building a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile in order to boost its industries. Sudan, next door, is in favor of the project too. But Egypt, which is downstream of both and relies on the river for 90 percent of its freshwater, is very sensitive about it, and the two sides have in the past exchanged veiled threats of war over the river. That's why we're alarmed to learn that ongoing negotiations about water rights between Cairo and Addis Ababa have reportedly broken down again, just days ahead of a big meeting between the three countries. The Ethiopians say the dam will begin operating by the end of next year – but without a negotiated compromise, that could turn into a deadline for major conflict.

What We're Ignoring

Marco Rubio on Islands – "I will begin exploring ways to cut off ties with Solomon Islands including potentially ending financial assistance and restricting access to U.S. dollars and banking." So tweeted Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on Tuesday, in response to the "shameful" decision by the Solomons, a group of islands east of Australia, to cut ties with Taiwan in favor of closer ties with China. Some of the archipelago nation's 600,000 people are probably wondering what action the US will take against itself, since Washington recognized China and ended formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1978. In any case, the implications of all this for Taiwan are negligible.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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