What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

UK's Brexit tweak could breach international law: Boris Johnson's government came under fire this week after signaling that it would rewrite parts of the deal negotiated with Brussels last year that set terms for the UK's exit from the European Union. That agreement allowed Northern Ireland, still part of the UK, the same trade rules and customs as the rest of the EU — a key condition of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 between the UK and Republic of Ireland that ended decades of violence. The British government now says it plans to pass legislation that could upend the provision that guarantees an open Irish border. Many observers say this would breach international law, putting the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. In the United States, meanwhile, Democrats have warned that a future Biden administration would reject any move to create a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that Johnson's latest move would undermine chances of negotiating any future US-UK free trade agreement. More immediately, this maneuver also undermines the trust on which ongoing UK-EU relations will depend.


Is Lula making a comeback in Brazil? Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva blasted the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, over the latter's botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Lula said that Bolsonaro has turned the pandemic into a "weapon of mass destruction," referring to the country's high COVID-19 caseload and death toll, second only to the United States. While criticisms of his pandemic response are nothing new for Bolsonaro — who consistently downplayed the severity of COVID-19, often flouting rules on mask-wearing and social distancing until he became sick himself — it is the first time that Lula has hit Bolsonaro in such a public way, causing pundits to ask whether Brazil's leftist former leader might be preparing for a 2022 runoff against the right-wing incumbent. In 2018, Lula was sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption, but a year later his conviction was overturned, although he still can't run for public office. However, questions over the impartiality of the judge (Bolsonaro's own former justice minister) could result in Lula's political rights being restored by the Supreme Court. That raises the stakes for Bolsonaro in the general election in two years, where Lula — who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and is still very popular, especially among the working poor — would be a formidable rival.

What We're Ignoring:

Trump tapped for Nobel Peace Prize: US President Donald Trump was nominated on Wednesday for the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a recent peace deal between former foes — the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a far-right Norwegian politician with anti-immigrant views on par with Trump's, tapped the US president for the 2021 prize. While Trump's Nobel nod sounds auspicious, we're ignoring this development for two key reasons: Firstly, the bar for being nominated is extremely low (nominations are accepted from any politician serving at the national level). Additionally, Tybring-Gjedde, clearly a Trump fanboy, was one of two politicians who nominated the US president for the same prize in 2018 for his role in fostering "reconciliation" between North and South Korea. But relations on the Korean Peninsula are far from reconciled these days...

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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35.4: The US has overtaken China as the country with the largest share of the world's Bitcoin mining networks, now accounting for 35.4 of the global mining presence. This comes after the Chinese government banned domestic cryptocurrency mining operations to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction.

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