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What We're Watching: Japan's new leader, Moria refugees in limbo, Lebanon's blown deadline

Japan's newly-elected Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga arrives at his official residence in Tokyo

Who's Japan's new PM? The world's third largest economy has a new prime minister after the Japanese parliament voted to elect Yoshihide Suga to the top job just weeks after Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest serving prime minister, resigned because of health problems. Suga, a former cardboard factory worker and close political confidant of Abe for almost a decade, was elected to head the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) with 70 percent of the parliamentary vote. There's widespread consensus among political observers that Suga, known as a pragmatist, will seek to continue Abe's political agenda and legacy, with one commentator dubbing him an "Abe substitute." Suga's cabinet also includes many former Abe loyalists, suggesting a continuation of his policies. Japan now faces twin economic and health crises, while experts say a second wave of infection has already hit the country. One key decision for Suga is whether to move forward with the Olympic games, which Tokyo is still slated to host next summer despite uncertainty about the pandemic.

Moria refugees in limbo: More than a week since a fire ripped through the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, thousands of refugees remain in limbo, sleeping on the streets with little access to food, water, or shelter. Of the nearly 13,000 displaced refugees — who hail from 70 different countries — the Greek government has been able to resettle about 1,200 in temporary migrant camps. In part, that's because many of the migrants are refusing to go to new camps, demanding to be resettled permanently elsewhere in Europe. Moria, an overcrowded camp originally intended to house just 3,000 people, became a symbol of despair in 2015 when thousands of refugees fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and parts of Africa began arriving at the Mediterranean coast in droves in the hopes of permanent resettlement in Europe. This week, Germany said it will take in more refugee families from Greece, but as Lesbos descends into chaos (yet again), critics say the offer doesn't go far enough. The plight of Moria has long been a symbol of the deep divisions over migrant policy that continue to plague the 27-member European Union.

Lebanon's blown deadline. With their country in turmoil, Lebanon's leaders had one job. Under a plan drawn up earlier this month by France, the country's ever-squabbling sectarian political factions agreed to form a new, reform-oriented government by September 16. In exchange for that, Paris was supposed to help unlock massive amounts of foreign financial support for the crisis-wracked country. That one job proved to be too much. Clashes over key posts, and resistance from parliament speaker Nabih Berri — an ally of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite group, who has criticized the French plan and called for the US to drop its sanctions against the group — scuttled the talks. As Lebanon staggers through a crippling economic crisis and the aftermath of last month's devastating port explosion, the stakes couldn't be higher. Prime Minister designate Mustapha Adib, whose job it is to form a government, says "god willing, all will be well." As Lebanon's human leadership continues to fail, God's will may be all that can help at this point.

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