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What We’re Watching: Libya’s kaleidoscopic war, Spain’s royal scandal, Burundi’s sudden death

What We’re Watching: Libya’s kaleidoscopic war, Spain’s royal scandal, Burundi’s sudden death

A new phase in Libya: The intractable conflict in Libya, now in its sixth year, appears to have reached a new phase in recent days. After a series of military gains by the Government of National Accord (GNA) – the internationally recognized government which is backed by Turkish troops – its rivals in the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar with support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Russia, proposed a unilateral ceasefire and the formation of a new nationwide leadership council. The idea, presented by President el-Sisi of Egypt, was promptly rejected by the GNA, which hopes to capitalize on recent military gains – including its takeover of the oil-rich city of Sirte – to solidify its control over Libya's eastern provinces. In response to the LNA's setbacks, Russia appeared to intensify its operations Tuesday, sending a host of new aircraft conveys to help General Haftar push back against the GNA offensive. Turkey's President Erdogan, meanwhile, lobbied President Trump to further support his cause in Libya.


Royal wrongdoing in Spain? Spain's top court is investigating whether the country's former king received millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks from Saudi Arabia in connection with a Spanish consortium's construction of a high-speed rail link between the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Swiss prosecutors are also reportedly probing financial links between then-King Juan Carlos and the late Saudi King Abdullah. Juan Carlos, who abdicated the throne in 2014 in favor of his son Felipe, now has no immunity from prosecution. Spain's current king has renounced any inheritance from his father, but this is just the latest in a series of financial scandals hanging over Spain's increasingly controversial royal family.

Burundi's outgoing president is dead: Just weeks after Burundi expelled World Health Organization representatives who criticized the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, the country's outgoing head of state, President Pierre Nkurunziza, has died, reportedly of a heart attack. The 55-year old Nkurunziza was to be replaced in August by a political ally after a tumultuous 15 years in power that have included a failed coup attempt, a harsh crackdown on political opponents and ongoing civic unrest that forced thousands of Burundians to flee the country in recent years. Reports are abuzz that Nkurunziz, who denied the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in recent months and pushed back against calls for social distancing guidelines, died from COVID-19. He and his wife had sought medical treatment in Kenya in recent weeks.

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