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What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

What We're Watching

Protests in Hungary – Starting last week, thousands of anti-government protesters have hit the streets in Hungary. The unrest began when the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban forced through a new labor law that permits bosses to demand 400 hours of overtime annually and to delay paying workers for those hours for up to three years.

The measure aims to solve Hungary's chronic labor shortages without accepting more immigrants, whom Orban often demonizes. Hungary's unions said hell no, opposition parties and students got behind them, and the protests have morphed into a broader backlash against Mr. Orban's crackdown on democracy and civil society. Footage of police beating an opposition politician has further inflamed the situation. Will Orban back down on an unpopular law or will he crack down on the streets, risking a more serious political crisis?

A new army in the Balkans – Last week, Kosovo's parliament voted to create a national army. The move provoked an angry response from neighboring Serbia, the country from which Kosovo gained independence in 1999 after a brutal war. Serbia says it's worried about the security of Serb minorities in predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo. NATO also opposes the move, given the potential for instability in the region. Kosovo says it should be entitled to an army like any other country, though under the UN-brokered terms of its independence, Kosovo's constitution doesn't allow it. The US government has broken with NATO on this, by firmly backing Kosovo's position. The move is symbolic for now — the parliament's plan would take ten years to realize — but as tensions throughout the region continue to simmer, we're keeping a watchful eye even on symbolic gestures.

What We're Ignoring

Mexico's ambitious oil goals — Mexico's new left-wing president, Andres Manuel López Obrador, wants to make the country self-sufficient in oil and fuels. He's proposed massive new funding for Pemex, Mexico's heavily-indebted state oil company, and wants to build a new $8 billion oil refinery in his home state of Tabasco. Mr. Lopez Obrador's plan for Mexico's once-vibrant oil industry is ambitious: he wants to boost Pemex's oil production by 50 percent over the next five years. But it looks like a long shot, as it would require reversing 14 years of steady decline in oil output due to mismanagement, high debt, and low oil prices.

Putin's bid to become Tsar of all the Rappers – The Russian president doesn't like rap music. Its glorification of "drugs, sex, and protest" poison the Russian language, culture, and nation, he says. His curmudgeonly objections aside, Putin also says it's impossible to outlaw the genre – which is hugely popular among younger Russians. Instead, he wants instead to "regulate" it. What that means isn't clear, but his comments come amid a growing clash between Russia's hip-hop scene and the government that's seen shows cancelled, rappers jailed, and Soviet poets pressed into service in an attempt to prove that rap is actually Russian. Putin generally plays a weak hand well, but taking on an entire musical genre seems like a losing battle. Does he really think he's bigger than hip hop?

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