What We're Watching: Finally, a trade deal

What We're Watching: Finally, a trade deal

Trump gets his deal – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that Democrats will back the USMCA, the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Crucially, the bill will also have support from the nation's largest labor union. This is a major political victory for President Trump, who promised he would close this deal, but it's also good for Pelosi: it shows that the Democrats' House majority can still accomplish big things even as it impeaches the president. But with the speed of the Washington news cycle these days, we're watching to see if anyone is still talking about USMCA three days after it's signed.


The end of martial law in the southern Philippines – More than two years after imposing martial law in Mindanao – the Philippines' second largest island and home to more than 90 percent of the country's more than 5 million Muslims – President Rodrigo Duterte will now lift the restrictions by year-end. The measure was originally imposed in response to the seizure by Islamic State rebels of parts of the southern city of Marawim in 2017, but rights groups criticized it as evidence of Duterte's authoritarian instincts. The Philippines' government now says the clout of armed groups in the region has diminished, but the influence of ISIS in Southeast Asia more broadly has grown in recent months, with Mindanao itself hit by a number of deadly suicide bombings.

Anguish and election in the UK – Tomorrow, voters will decide whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives will get the parliamentary majority he needs in order to push through his Brexit plan. After three years of Brexit anguish, Johnson's "Get Brexit Done" platform appears to be resonating with working class and rural voters who see Brexit as a way to revive British industry and limit immigration. His chief rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, is trying to talk past Brexit – which many working class Labour voters now support – toward issues of social justice and economic inequality that can also attract urban and younger voters. The fiercely anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, for their part, are just hoping to win enough seats to deny Johnson a majority. The latest polls show Johnson with a 10 point lead over Corbyn. Oddly, the latest electoral map appears to shows cartoon character Homer Simpson in a muumuu.

What We're Reading

How China pitched Italy rightwards The migrant crisis of 2015-2016 may have contributed to the recent explosion of rightwing parties across Europe but, at least in Italy, the fuse was lit decades ago when Chinese competitors began to hollow out the country's industrial heartlands. Though Chinese immigrants have contributed a lot to the economy since then, the far-right, anti-immigrant Lega party still has a large number of formerly left-wing, working class voters in these regions. A fascinating long read from the New York Times here.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

India's rape problem: Hundreds of protesters have flocked to the streets of New Delhi for four days straight after a 9-year old girl was raped and murdered in a small village outside the capital while going to fetch water for her family. Some demonstrators burned effigies of India's PM Narendra Modi, saying that the government has not done enough — or anything, really — to address the country's abysmal rape problem: there were more than 32,000 rapes recorded in 2019, certainly a vast undercount given the stigma associated with reporting sexual assaults in India. The scourge of sexual violence against women and girls in India was brought to light in 2012 when a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and murdered while traveling on a bus in the nation's capital, prompting international outrage. Four men have been arrested in connection with this week's attack, though they have not been charged. The city of New Delhi, meanwhile, has ordered an inquiry to probe events surrounding the young girl's death, though Indians who have been sounding the alarm on violence against women for decades aren't expecting much to come of it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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20,200: As the super contagious delta variant continues to spread, Thailand is now a COVID hotspot, recording more than 20,200 new COVID cases Wednesday, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began. Authorities imposed new restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces as the vaccine rollout remains sluggish; just 5.8 percent of Thailand's 66 million people are fully vaccinated.

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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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How should athletes protest at the Olympics?

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Does alcohol help or harm society?

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