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What We're Watching: Brussels vs Belarus, South Africa's COVID corruption, a fresh fix for the WHO?

What We're Watching: Brussels vs Belarus, South Africa's COVID corruption, a fresh fix for the WHO?

The EU's Belarus problem: While Belarus' strongman president Alexander Lukashenko vowed on Wednesday to crack down on the thousands of Belarusians still protesting against the country's recently-rigged elections, EU member states were convening for an emergency session on the country's deepening crisis. So far, the European Commission has pledged 53 million euros to support Belarusians, including two-million going towards those wounded in the recent government crackdown, as well as 1 million aimed at bolstering an independent media that has been under assault for decades. Most of the funds will go towards the country's post-pandemic economic recovery. However, to date, the EU has not explicitly called for Lukashenko to step aside and has failed to reach a consensus on whether to hit Minsk with sanctions. That's because some member states, such as Hungary, are friendly with Lukashenko, and have called for more dialogue with Minsk, rather than punitive measures. But power brokers in Brussels, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, have made it clear that swift action must be taken to protect the Belarusian people, and to stave off a potential Russian intervention in the crisis by Lukashenko's longtime frenemy Vladimir Putin (i.e. Ukraine 2.0).


South Africa's COVID corruption probe: South African special investigators allege that government institutions, including the capital city's health department, cut crooked deals for coronavirus-related tenders — including for PPE procurement, quarantine sites and disinfectant equipment — totaling a whopping $290 million. It's the latest challenge for President Cyril Ramaphosa who took over as head of the African National Congress party (ANC) in 2018 after the ouster of the party's disgraced former leader Jacob Zuma. At the time, Ramaphosa pledged to root out corruption, bring "ethics into politics," and revive the country's battered economy, but attempts at reform have so far proven elusive, largely because of dysfunction and competing factions within the ANC itself.

A different way to fix the WHO: US President Donald Trump isn't the only one who thinks the World Health Organization is too weak, poorly funded, and beholden to national interests to do its job well — it turns out France and Germany agree with him. But unlike Trump, who is walking out on the organization, Paris and Berlin are proposing massive reforms that would give it more money and stronger oversight powers, according to a Reuter's exclusive. The details of the proposal are yet to be ironed out ahead of discussions as soon as next month. We're watching to see three things. First, how do Germany and France plan to get countries to pony up more dough in the middle of a global recession? Can they really give the WHO more muscle to force member states to do things that are in the interest of global public health? And lastly, are the skeptical Americans and the Chinese going to agree?

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