What We’re Watching: It’s a Kim Jong-un Christmas!

What We’re Watching: It’s a Kim Jong-un Christmas!

North Koreans bearing gifts? – What kind of present will North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un leave under the tree for President Trump this year? US spooks are worried it could be a missile test: Talks over the North's nuclear arsenal have stalled since a summit between the two leaders broke down in February, leaving Pyongyang chafing under US sanctions. Testing a new ICBM that could reach the US would be one way for Kim to get Trump's attention, but it might provoke the US to seek even tighter financial curbs against the North. China, South Korea, and Japan have engaged in a flurry of diplomacy in recent days to try to tamp down rising tensions.


Turkey's refugee warning – Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that more than 80,000 refugees from the Syrian province of Idlib had fled for the Turkish border amid bombing by the Assad regime and Russian forces – and that Turkey would not shoulder the full burden of accepting them. Under a deal with the EU, Turkey already hosts more than 3.7 million Syrian refugees, and public anger about it is rising. That's one reason Erdogan recently invaded northern Syria—to create a "safe zone" for the resettling of some of those people. He says that unless Europe backs his plans, he'll "open the gates" to allow millions more refugees to enter the EU.

West African countries cut a lingering colonial tie – For decades, former French colonies in Africa have used a common regional currency known as the CFA Franc. Over the weekend, eight of those countries in West Africa – Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo – agreed with France to rename the currency the "Eco" and to scrap the requirement that they keep half of their foreign reserves in this currency. The new currency will still be pegged to the Euro, as the CFA Franc was. We are watching to see what effect the change has on the economy and well-being of these countries' populations.

What We're Ignoring

A flimsy fall-guy verdict in Saudi Arabia – A court in Saudi Arabia convicted eight people in the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and sentenced five of them to death. None of those people, of course, is Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman -- whom Western intelligence agencies believe ordered or approved the killing – nor two of his top advisers who were believed to have intimate knowledge of its details. This is hardly surprising – Saudi Arabia's highly politicized judicial system was never expected to punish the country's de facto leader or his aides. Still, we are ignoring this verdict because, frankly, it's (M)B.S.

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