What We're Watching: New US Supreme Court justice, Morales can go back to Bolivia, Nile dam talks resume

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as her husband Jesse Barrett and President Donald Trump watch on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 26, 2020

SCOTUS battle rages on: In a major victory for US President Donald Trump just a week out from the presidential election, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, who was then swiftly sworn into office at a nighttime ceremony at the White House. Barrett, a conservative who was tapped to replace deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just 46 days out from the presidential election, is the first Supreme Court justice to be confirmed in over 150 years without the support of a single member of the minority party. Democrats are furious, saying that Republicans — who blocked Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016, arguing at the time that the seat should only be filled after the next US president was elected some nine months later — have cynically backtracked on their own assertions. Democrats have also called the rushed confirmation process "illegitimate." Pressure is now mounting on Joe Biden (specifically, from the progressive wing of his party) to expand the size of the Supreme Court should he win in November, so Democrats can install liberal justices to offset the crucial court's hard-right shift.


Evo Morales' likely return: A Bolivian judge on Tuesday dismissed an arrest warrant for alleged sedition and terrorism against former president Evo Morales, paving the way for Morales, who led the country from 2006 to 2019, to return to Bolivia without fear of detention. Although the warrant was thrown out over a technicality, the investigation against Morales continues. If Morales does return, he'll still likely be expected to show up in court to face the charges, which stem from his alleged role organizing roadblocks in the wake of the disputed 2019 election. Morales initially claimed victory in last year's vote, but the military forced him to resign amid allegations of vote-buying and civil unrest. He has since lived in self-imposed exile in Mexico and Argentina, but vowed to return if Luis Arce, the candidate aligned with his socialist MAS party, won the October 18 October presidential election (he did, in a landslide). Now that Morales will likely be back soon, we're watching to see how his physical presence in Bolivia will affect Arce's first moves as president, given how the new president — a UK-educated economist who seeks to end Bolivian political polarization — distanced himself from Morales during the campaign.

Nile dam talks are back on: Negotiators from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan were set to meet (again) on Tuesday to discuss the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Upper Nile river, which Addis Ababa says it needs to generate electricity but Cairo and Khartoum say will leave their farmers' crops dry. Nearly two months after Cairo walked out of the last round of talks over Addis Ababa's new timeline to fill the reservoir, the latest discussions have been overshadowed by an outside player, the United States, after President Trump suggested Cairo could "blow up the dam" if an agreement is not reached soon. Trump's comments outraged the Ethiopians, who have long complained that the Americans have blatantly favored their Egyptian allies in US mediation efforts. Ethiopia also resents Trump's decision to cut over $100 million in US development aid after Addis Ababa soured on a US-brokered deal to end the dispute. As the three interested parties return to the negotiating table, they will be closely monitoring the result of next week's US election — will a future Biden administration be as keen as Trump to back Egypt?

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky facts about the Games that have many people on edge.

Today — what's the smallest country (by population) to win a gold medal in a summer Olympics?

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