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What We're Watching: Putin eyes Belarus, NZ shooter gets life, Mali coup continues

What We're Watching: Putin eyes Belarus, NZ shooter gets life, Mali coup continues

Will Putin, or won't he? In his first public remarks on the unrest in Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he's ready to send a special police squad into the country to restore order if "extremist elements" cause things to spin "out of control." As protests against Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko's bogus re-election continue, Putin's remarks are the clearest indication yet that the Kremlin is mulling a direct intervention. But are we really headed for a Ukraine 2014 redux? It's complicated. Putin can't stand Lukashenko, and would love to see him gone, but he also wants to prevent the Belarusian opposition from succeeding in a way that might inspire Russians. What's more, intervening directly in Belarus would probably be a harder sell at home than he had to make in 2014: for Russia, Belarus' cultural, economic, and strategic importance all pale next to Ukraine's. But Putin also has a reflexive fear of instability: if the situation deteriorates significantly next door — and his pledge of support could well encourage Lukashenko to push things too far — Putin could roll the dice and send in the troops.

Life in jail for NZ mosque shooter: A New Zealand court on Thursday sentenced Brenton Tarrant to life in prison for murdering 51 people at a Christchurch mosque in March 2019. Tarrant — an Australian white supremacist who pleaded guilty, defended himself and showed no remorse during the trial — is the first person in New Zealand's history who will spend the rest of his life behind bars without any chance of parole. The worst mass murder the country has ever seen prompted a wave of anti-gun legislation, including a ban on semi-automatic weapons and a government amnesty and buyback program for other arms. It also ignited a global debate about how to combat online hate speech and Islamophobia (Tarrant live streamed the entire massacre on Facebook). However, the libertarian-minded New Zealand First Party, a junior partner in the coalition government led by Jacinda Adern, the progressive prime minister, has so far resisted attempts to pass sweeping laws that many experts believe would help curb the spread of intolerance on the internet.

Coup leaders free ousted Mali leader: Mali's ruling military junta has released former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita over a week after he was arrested and forced to resign following a coup by rebel army officers. Keita's release had been demanded by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has imposed trade and financial sanctions on post-coup Mali and is pressing the coup leaders for a timeline to make a transition to a civilian government. The junta wants to stay in power for three years, but ECOWAS wants elections a year from now. Meanwhile, there are concerns that armed jihadi groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State may take advantage of the current instability to make further inroads in Mali. France has committed to keeping its troops there for now, but we're watching whether the coup leaders will be able to restore order not only in the capital but also in swaths of the country controlled by Islamic militants. Back in 2012, instability after a coup enabled jihadis to take control of a huge chunk of northern Mali for over a year.

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?

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