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What We're Watching: Brexit Drags on, Argentina Clamps down, Germany’s Center Holds

What We're Watching: Brexit Drags on, Argentina Clamps down, Germany’s Center Holds

Brexit lurches forward — However tired you are of reading about the long-running-but-never-moving Brexit saga, we here at Signal are equally (if not more) tired of writing about it. But this week will deliver some genuine drama as parliamentary opponents of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's no-deal Brexit gambit (a move he hopes will force the EU back to the negotiation table) attempt to pass legislation preventing the country from crashing out of the European Union on October 31. Time is short, as the Boris-backed parliament suspension kicks in next week. Boris has already threatened to call a general election on October 14 should MPs prove successful in passing a bill that forces him to seek an extension from Brussels in the face of no-deal. Even if the legislation doesn't pass, MPs can attempt to trigger elections themselves via a vote of no confidence. To paraphrase another famous Brit, this may be the beginning of the end, or it could be the end of the beginning. We'll be watching this week to see which of the two it is.

Argentina clamps down — Last week, Argentina said it would put off paying back $101 billion in country debt, a move that some (including the ratings agency Standard and Poor's) branded a default on the country's debts. On Sunday, Buenos Aires instituted capital controls to stem the country's worsening economic and financial crisis. While the immediate cause of the economic tumult was the surprise defeat of business-friendly President Mauricio Macri to his populist opponent in primary elections last month, Argentina's problems go deeper: over the past 12 months, more than 3 million people have slipped into poverty. We're watching to see how much worse the situation gets ahead of Argentina's October elections, when investors' fear of a populist assuming looks likely to become a reality.

Germany's battered center holds — The country's mainstream political parties beat back the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in two state elections in the former East Germany on Sunday, but it wasn't pretty. In Brandenburg, the state that surrounds Berlin, the anti-immigrant AfD came in second to the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) with 23.5 percent of the vote, nearly doubling its showing from 2014. In Saxony, along the Polish border, the AfD almost tripled its vote share to 27.5 percent, around 5 percentage points behind Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). While the AfD performed worse than Germany's two long-dominant parties had feared, the result shows the power of AfD's populist message in a region that suffered a massive exodus of young workers after the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. It will also complicate the process of building governing coalitions in both states. We're watching to see how the "grand coalition" between the CDU and SPD weathers this new, more fractious era in German politics.

What We're Ignoring:

Putin and Abe ending WWII Dignitaries assembled in Poland last weekend to mark the 80th anniversary of World War Two. Missing from the gathering: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose countries never signed a peace treaty after the war and continue to press competing claims over a series of islands that lie between them. The pair will discuss the islands' status at a meeting in Vladivostok, in Russia's far east, later this week on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum. But the two have held more than 25 bilateral meetings over the course of their tenures, and have yet to reach a breakthrough on the impasse. We're ignoring this story, because if there were serious prospects for officially ending the bloodiest conflict the world has ever seen, it's (probably) not going to happen at a side meeting at an economic conference.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream