What We're Watching: Dwindling Hopes of a Big US-China Deal

Dwindling hopes of a big US-China deal – China's Vice Premier Liu He will be in Washington tomorrow for the latest round of US-China trade talks – but things don't look great. For one thing, Bloomberg reports that Chinese officials have privately made clear that while they'll talk tariffs, they aren't willing to negotiate core aspects of China's economic model, including Beijing's massive subsidies and protections for its state-owned companies. But omitting those things – which are critical for the US side –would mean there's no shot of the "100%" deal that the Trump administration seeks. What's more, on Monday night the US slapped fresh sanctions on 28 of China's top tech companies for their role in China's repression of Muslims in Xinjiang province. Without a deal this week, China may in fact be willing to stand pat and see how the impeachment, and the election, play out for Trump.


Disillusionment in Tunisia – The moderate Islamists of the Ennahda Party came out on top in a highly fragmented vote for Parliament over the weekend, but turnout was low (41 percent) and forming a government will prove tricky, as the party won only about 40 of 217 seats. After the last general election, in 2014, Ennahda governed in an unwieldy and largely ineffective coalition that left many voters disillusioned. Eight years on from the only successful democratic revolution of the Arab Spring, some 70 percent of Tunisians say they don't trust any political parties at all, and they are increasingly turning to outsiders: the leading candidates in this Friday's presidential election are a jailed populist media tycoon and a constitutional law professor with an uncommonly decent approach to politics.

A bulbous challenge in India – One of the biggest political challenges facing the world's most populous democracy at the moment has to do with… onions. The humble bulb vegetable is a staple food for hundreds of millions of Indians, and a hardy cash crop for millions of the country's farmers as well. So when floods caused onion prices to triple between August and October, the national government immediately banned onion exports in order to boost supplies and bring down prices. It worked. But that, in turn, prompted protests by onion farmers and exporters, particularly in the populous northern Maharashtra state which, as it happens, is about to hold local elections. As the BBC explains, onions have a long political history in India, and have played a starring role in major political campaigns over the years. Forgive us for calling this an eye-wateringly multi-layered problem.

What We're Ignoring

A Stupid Blame Game – After an apparently "frank" conversation about Brexit between British PM Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday morning, accusations flew fast. A 10 Downing Street source said the call had forever buried prospects for a deal. European Council President Donald Tusk accused Johnson of playing "some stupid blame game." Amusing as all this noise is, we're ignoring it because the raw situation is still this: 31 October is the deadline for the UK to leave the EU. Johnson says he'd do that with or without a deal, but an Act of Parliament requires him to seek an extension if he can't strike one. After his latest proposal for a Brexit deal failed to fly either with Brussels or with Ireland – whose border with Northern Ireland is the key sticking point – it looks like Johnson will make a big stink but end up asking for that extension. The EU will reluctantly grant it and then Johnson will look to hold elections in order to bolster his position ahead of fresh negotiations with Brussels. That, at least, seems like the obvious path – but nothing about Brexit has been obvious.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

It's been two months since President Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, paving the way for a bloody Turkish offensive in that region. (See our earlier coverage here.) What's happened since? A guide for the puzzled:

No "end date" for US troops in Syria – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this week that the United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria. Back in October, President Trump pledged to withdraw the roughly 1,000 American troops deployed there. Since then, some American troops have left Syria altogether, while others were redeployed to defend nearby oil fields from ISIS, as well as from Syrian government troops and Russia. Now, there are roughly 600 American troops dispersed around Syria, and the remainder have been deployed in Iraq to stave off a potential ISIS resurgence. It's not clear if any troops have returned to the US. When asked about the chaotic comings and goings of US troops in Syria in recent months, the commander of US Central Command said frankly: there's no "end date" for American troops stationed there.

More Show less

Turkey's government has captured many thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its operations in northern Syria. Many of these prisoners have already been deported to some of the more than 100 countries they come from, and Ankara says it intends to send more. There are also more than 10,000 women and children – family members of ISIS fighters – still living in camps inside Syria.

These facts create a dilemma for the governments of countries where the ISIS detainees are still citizens: Should these terrorist fighters and their families be allowed to return, in many cases to face trial back home? Or should countries refuse to allow them back?

More Show less

What's the difference between Alphabet and Google?

Well, Google is the search engine, YouTube, all the stuff you probably think of as Google. Alphabet is the parent company that was created four or five years ago. And it contains a whole bunch of other entities like Jigsaw, Verily - the health care company that Google runs, Waymo - the self-driving car unit. Also, it's important to know Google makes tons of money. Alphabet, all that other stuff loses tons of money.

More Show less

The collapse of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria has given rise to a host of new challenges for governments around the world. Turkey has captured thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its offensive in northern Syria, many of whom are foreign nationals who left their home countries to fight with the Islamic State. To date, non-Middle East countries have mostly opposed ISIS fighters returning home, leaving them, and their spouses and children, in legal limbo. Here's a look at where these foreign fighters come from.