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What We're Watching: Vicious climate cycles and Merkel's successor in the "ejector seat"

What We're Watching: Vicious climate cycles and Merkel's successor in the "ejector seat"

The burning Arctic Scientists are tracking an "unprecedented" number of fires burning north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland, Russia, Canada, and Alaska after a record summer heatwave. By one estimate, the fires released more carbon dioxide than Sweden's entire annual emissions in June alone. It's the kind of feedback loop that we're likely to see more of as global temperatures continue to rise: a heat wave dries out tundra, then fires release huge amounts of CO2, further warming the planet. This problem increases the risk that politically disruptive effects of climate change – like mass migrations or geopolitical competition for ice-free Arctic sea lanes and undersea resources – will arrive (much) more quickly than expected.

Germany's "ejector seat" – Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel's would-be successor as German chancellor, became the country's defense minister last week. The defense job is one of the most important and highest-profile positions in the German federal government, but it's also nicknamed the "ejector seat" because a succession of German politicians who served in this post later saw their political ambitions go down in flames. Can AKK, who has riled some party stalwarts by tacking to the right as leader of the Christian Democrats, use the position to revitalize her political fortunes? Or will her bid to eventually replace Merkel crash and burn?

What We're Ignoring:

A US migration deal with Guatemala – On Friday, President Trump got Guatemala to agree to a deal that, if implemented, could help reduce the number of Central American migrants seeking refuge in the US: Guatemala will require migrants transiting through the country from Honduras and El Salvador to apply for asylum there first. In return, the US will give more farm worker visas to Guatemalans. There are serious problems with this deal. It might be illegal , for one thing. Guatemala's border force is barely staffed and hasn't processed an asylum case in years, according to Vice. And Guatemala itself has become so violent that it sent more migrants fleeing to the US than either Honduras or El Salvador in 2018.


Boris Johnson's Brexit ad blitz – The new UK prime minister plans to spend £100m printing leaflets, putting up billboards, and airing radio and television ads to prepare the British public in case the UK crashes out of the European Union without a withdrawal agreement. It's part of Johnson's two-track strategy to increase political pressure on EU negotiators to tweak the UK's Brexit deal to make it more palatable to parliament, while also prepping for no-deal just in case. We're ignoring this story, because Brussels already knows exactly what Johnson is up to.

Bank of America's $25 million jobs initiative provides Black and Hispanic-Latino individuals access to skills and training needed for jobs of the future. Learn more about the initiative, which involves partnerships with 21 community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Iran's nuclear tug-of-war: Hardliners in Iran's parliament passed a bill Tuesday suspending UN inspections of its nuclear sites and giving the go-ahead to massively increase uranium enrichment unless the US lifts its sanctions by February. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani opposes the measure, saying it would be "harmful" to diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with the incoming Biden administration in the US. But Iran's parliament doesn't actually need Rouhani's approval to pass the law, and regardless, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will have the final say on policy – as always! If the law is passed, it will immediately raise the stakes for Biden, who takes office on January 20. Both he and Rouhani say they are keen to resume dialogue in hopes of reviving the nuclear deal, which President Trump walked out of in 2018. But just days after the architect of Iran's nuclear program was assassinated (likely by Israel with the US' blessing) the hurdles to even beginning those talks are rising fast.

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"China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy." This was the message recently conveyed by a Chinese government official on the intensifying row with its Asia-Pacific neighbor, Australia.

China-Australia relations, steadily deteriorating in recent months over a range of political disputes, reached a new low this week when Beijing posted a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child's throat. Beijing's decision to post the fake image at a hypersensitive time for Australia's military establishment was a deliberate political provocation: beat Canberra while it's down.

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19.4: The Lebanese economy, waylaid by financial and political crises on top of the pandemic, is set to contract by a crippling 19.4 percent this year, according to the World Bank. Next year things hardly get better, with a contraction of 13.2 percent coming in 2021.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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