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What We’re Watching: Navalny poisoning confirmed, Israel-Hamas truce, Japan PM hopefuls

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny at a rally in Moscow.

Germany confirms Russian dissident was poisoned: German lab tests have verified that Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, a defiant critic of Vladimir Putin, was recently poisoned with Novichok, the same Soviet-era nerve agent used in 2018 in the UK against former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both of whom survived. After Germany asked Russia for an explanation, the Kremlin (as expected) brushed off the allegations and demanded that Berlin share information about the case. The use of Novichok, a rare and highly specialized poison, suggests some level of state involvement in the attempted killing, but Putin has so far declined to comment publicly on the poisoning.


Israel, Hamas stop fighting (for now): Amid a coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip and a rising caseload in Israel, the Israeli government and the Palestinian militants of Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire. The one-month truce includes a Qatari cash infusion for Hamas, and an Israeli pledge to lifting a fuel sales ban on Gaza (which was initially imposed after Hamas began launching balloons filled with explosives and rockets into southern Israel, prompting retaliatory airstrikes by Israel). Gaza's 2 million residents are hoping that the truce will finally put them back on the electrical grid after weeks of darkness due to the fuel shortage. The enclave was placed under lockdown last week after its first community transmission of COVID-19 was detected. Experts have warned that a deadly outbreak of the coronavirus could be catastrophic in Gaza, where social distancing is often impossible and the health system is always on the brink of collapse.

Race is on to succeed Abe in Japan: Following Shinzo Abe's abrupt resignation as prime minister of Japan, several members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are expected to throw their hat into the ring to replace him. According to a Kyodo poll, the current frontrunner is former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, whom Abe defeated twice in battles for the LDP leadership in 2012 and 2018. Although Ishiba — a rare vocal critic of Abe in favor of stronger ties with other Asian countries amid the US-China rivalry — has strong grassroots support among the wider electorate, he is less popular with the party establishment. Ishiba, who has yet to confirm he's running, will likely face off against Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, an LDP darling who is trailing Ishiba in the surveys but is widely considered to be the consensus candidate in a party leadership contest where only LDP lawmakers will be allowed to vote due to the coronavirus pandemic. Will they pick the popular insurgent or the trusted Abe lieutenant?

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