What We're Watching: Italy's uncertainty

Italy's prime minister resigns – Giuseppe Conte, the caretaker prime minister appointed to mediate an uneasy governing alliance between Italy's anti-establishment 5Star Movement and the right-wing Lega party, resigned on Tuesday. Rather than wait for a no-confidence vote triggered by the rightwing Lega Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Conte stepped down on his own terms. Salvini, who's popularity has been rising, had hoped that by triggering snap elections he could get himself appointed prime minister, will now have to wait for Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, to decide what comes next. While Lega and smaller right-wing allies want a new vote, center and left-wing parties are apparently working to see if they can form a majority coalition – perhaps including 5Star -- that would allow Mattarella to appoint a new government without fresh elections. We're watching to see how the dust settles in Europe's third-biggest economy.


A crisis brewing in Zimbabwe – When strongman Emmerson "The Crocodile" Mnangagwa ousted his old boss Robert Mugabe in 2017, he promised a better future for a country that had known years of hyperinflation and successive economic crises. It hasn't panned out. The legacy of Mugabe's incompetent economic policies, along with some bad weather, have pushed the country back to the brink of crisis in recent months. After the official inflation rate hit 175% in June, the government stopped publishing figures altogether, but independent analysts say the number may now be as high as 500%. Protesters angry about food shortages have hit the streets in recent days, prompting the government's usual response: truncheons. With a third of the population now facing a food crisis, and the government taking a hard line, we are watching to see if Zimbabwe's economic crisis fast becomes a political one as well.

Greeks baring rifts – After failing to convince British courts in Gibraltar to turn over the Iranian tanker called Adrian Darya 1, née Grace 1, the Trump administration is now pressuring the Greek government to deny assistance to the vessel which is plying its way across the Mediterranean as we speak. Greece's new prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is known for his pro-US views, but a Greek foreign ministry official was quoted as saying that "any decision will be in line with European Union rules on Iran." The US is finding out that going it alone on Iran means, well, going it alone. The tanker, which is carrying roughly $140 million worth of oil, should arrive in Greece by early next week.

What We're Ignoring

Bolsonaro's Amazon debacle – Commenters on Amazon's Brazil website are raving about a new 190-page book that explains why the country's controversial president, Jair Bolsonaro, "should be respected and trusted." It's a joke, because 188 of the pages are blank. On the one hand, LOL. But on the other, isn't accelerating deforestation in the Amazon rain forest one of the main things Bolsonaro's critics rage about? Those 188 blank pages aren't helping matters.

Are the US and China headed for a new Cold War over technology? Judging by what we heard a few days ago at the Munich Security Conference, a major trans-Atlantic gathering for world leaders and wonks, you'd certainly think so. US, European, and Chinese officials at the event all weighed in with strong words on the US campaign against Chinese 5G giant Huawei and much more. Here are the main insights we gleaned from the proceedings:

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A few weeks ago we first took a look at how a bat (possible origin of the coronavirus) could have a butterfly effect on the world economy.

China accounts for about a fifth of global economic output, a third of global oil imports, and the largest share of global exports. That means that any time the Chinese economy shudders or stumbles, the shockwaves circle the globe. And China is most certainly shuddering.

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Bloomberg takes the stage – Tomorrow's Democratic debate will be the first to feature media tycoon Mike Bloomberg, who in recent weeks has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars behind an ad campaign designed to position himself as a viable, moderate candidate who can beat Trump. As his support in national polls has climbed to nearly 20 percent, Bloomberg – who largely sat out the earlier rounds of Democratic campaigning – has come under attack for sexist comments in the past as well as his support, as NYC mayor, for "stop and frisk" policing tactics that disproportionately targeted people of color. Bloomberg will immediately be at war not only with the moderates whom he wants to displace – Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden – but especially with the front running left-progressive Bernie Sanders. It will likely be quite ugly and we're certainly tuning in.

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150: As the Chinese government continues to expand travel restrictions, hoping that reducing human contact will stop the virus from spreading further, at least 150 million people are now facing government restrictions dictating how often they can leave their homes. That's more than 10 percent of the country's total population who are currently on lockdown. Some 760 million are under partial, locally enforced restrictions.

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