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What We’re Watching: US mail-in vote drama, Argentina protests, Facebook allows hate speech in India

What We’re Watching: US mail-in vote drama, Argentina protests, Facebook allows hate speech in India

US mail-in vote mess: US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy agreed Tuesday to delay until after the November election a series of long-planned cost-cutting measures that would hamper states' efforts to expand mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the drama doesn't end there. President Donald Trump — who often claims (without evidence) that voting by mail will lead to a fraudulent election result — last week suggested he's happy to starve the US Postal Service of $25 billion in additional funding that Democrats have proposed in order to ensure ballots are delivered in time to meet state deadlines for ballot counting. That, along with the fact that DeJoy is a Trump donor, makes many Democrats fear that the president is indeed trying to rig the election by suppressing mail-in voting (although traditionally Republicans vote more by mail than Democrats). Over a dozen US states plan to sue both Trump and DeJoy, who the plaintiffs claim are conspiring to slow down election mail to favor Trump's reelection chances. Stay tuned for next week, when DeJoy is scheduled to appear before Congress to discuss the controversy.


Facebook's India double standard: The social media giant looked the other way as a prominent politician in India used his accounts to spew hate speech and incite violence against the country's Muslim minority, according to a Wall Street Journal report [paywall]. Facebook employees in India say they flagged the account of T. Raja Singh — who is a member of the ruling BJP party — for violating company policies when he called for the execution of Muslims and the destruction of mosques. But Facebook's top policy executive in India refused to ban the account, the report says, because of concerns about hurting the company's business in one of its largest markets. This isn't the first time Facebook has been in the spotlight in India — the company struggled to deal with disinformation ahead of last year's election. But with communal violence rising in the world's most populous democracy, story highlights the difficult tradeoffs that social media platforms like Facebook face as they try to balance their obligation to quash hate speech against their obligation to maximize profits. Ball's in your court, Mark.

Argentinians demand end to lockdown: Thousands of Argentinians have taken to the streets of Buenos Aires and other major cities to rail against President Alberto Fernández's plan to extend stay-at-home rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Defying stringent social distancing rules, the protesters also complained about the government's controversial judicial reforms, which the opposition views as an attempt to manipulate the system by creating new courts and diluting the power of existing ones. (Some point out that the reforms are coming right as Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the former president and now vice president, faces several pending charges for corruption). While it's no surprise that much of the crowd was made up of upper- and middle-class Argentines who aren't natural Fernandez voters anyway, there is evidence that the popularity of the president — who was initially praised for his better-than-expected handling of the pandemic — is now taking a hit due to fatigue with the lockdown and two years of economic recession.

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