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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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