What We’re Watching: Hariri’s out, Wong’s out, the Kurds are (maybe) out

Lebanon's PM throws in the towel: After two weeks of widespread anti-government protests, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced yesterday that he and his government would resign, paving the way for new elections. Years' worth of rage over government corruption and bleak job prospects exploded in mid-October when the government proposed a tax on calls made using free internet messaging services. But it's unclear whether this will be enough for protesters, whose signature chant "all of them means all of them" emphasizes that they want to upend the entire political class. Hariri's resignation also defied Hezbollah, the political party and militia group, which is a crucial member of the country's national-unity government and has rejected calls for an early election. As of now, there's no sign that the protesters are willing to back down, or that Hezbollah will agree to resign from government.


Time runs out in northern Syria: According to a Russia-Turkey agreement, all Kurdish militants are now supposed to have withdrawn from the Turkish-administered "safe zone" that extends 20 miles into northern Syria. The Russians say the Kurds are out, but Turkey isn't ready to confirm that, and there are concerns that Turkey is preparing to charge further into Syria than agreed. After all, Ankara is openly aiming to ethnically cleanse the region of Kurds, in order to resettle it with up to two million Syrian Arab refugees currently living in Turkey. At the same time, Turkish soldiers have clashed with Syrian army troops for the first time. This means that Turkey, a NATO member, is now patrolling a safe zone cleared of former US allies with Russia, while also shooting at Syrian soldiers backed by...Russia.

A big candidate barred in Hong Kong: Joshua Wong, Hong Kong's budding pro-democracy activist, was barred on Tuesday from running in district council elections slated for November 24, because he has been "advocating or promoting self-determination" for the territory. Pro-Beijing candidates usually dominate local polls in Hong Kong, but months of political unrest over the mainland's encroachment on Hong Kong's freedoms have prompted a surge in the number of pro-democracy candidates running. Wong, the former student leader of the 2014 Umbrella movement, is the only banned candidate out of more than 1,100 contenders. Pro-democracy candidates and pro-Beijing incumbents are vying for seats that will give them a say in the nomination of Hong Kong's next leader.

What We're Ignoring:

The spy who stole al-Baghdadi's underwear: The operation to capture or kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was successful because of months-long cooperation between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US military. While these missions are often top secret, a rather unusual detail of the daring raid has been released: to make sure that US forces were trailing the right terrorist, a Kurdish spy stole al-Baghdadi's underwear in order to test his DNA and confirm a match! While it's comforting to know that US-Kurdish intelligence sharing paid off, we're ignoring this because, frankly, it's TMI.

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick joins That Made All the Difference podcast to discuss how his career as a surgeon influenced his work as an educator, administrator and champion of underserved communities, and why he believes we may be on the cusp of the next "golden generation."

Listen to the latest podcast now.

It's been a bad week at the office for President Trump. Not only have coronavirus cases in the US been soaring, but The New York Times' bombshell report alleging that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan has continued to make headlines. While details about the extent of the Russian bounty program — and how long it's been going on for — remain murky, President Trump now finds himself in a massive bind on this issue.

Here are three key questions to consider.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:

Do some of the Facebook's best features, like the newsfeed algorithm or groups, make removing hate speech from the platform impossible?

No, they do not. But what they do do is make it a lot easier for hate speech to spread. A fundamental problem with Facebook are the incentives in the newsfeed algorithm and the structure of groups make it harder for Facebook to remove hate speech.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Yes, still in the middle of coronavirus, but thought I'd give you a couple of my thoughts on Russia. Part of the world that I cut my teeth on as a political scientist, way back in the eighties and nineties. And now Putin is a president for life, or at least he gets to be president until 2036, gets another couple of terms. The constitutional amendments that he reluctantly allowed to be voted on across Russia, passed easily, some 76% approval. And so now both in China and in Russia, term limits get left behind all for the good of the people, of course. So that they can have the leaders that they truly deserve. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here. It's sad to see. It's sad to see that the Americans won the Cold War in part, not just because we had a stronger economy and a stronger military, but actually because our ideas were better.

Because when those living in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block looked at the West, and looked at the United States, they saw that our liberties, they saw that our economy, was something that they aspired to and was actually a much better way of giving opportunities to the average citizen, than their own system afforded. And that helped them to rise up against it.

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Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US politics:

How likely is bipartisan action against Russia in light of Taliban bounty reports?

I think it's probably unlikely. One of the challenges here is that there's some conflict of the intelligence and anything that touches on the issue of President Trump and Russia is extremely toxic for him. Republicans have so far been tolerant of that and willing to stop any new sanctions coming. I think unless the political situation or the allegations get much worse or more obvious, that stalemate probably remains.

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