What We're Watching: Brazil's Dam Disaster

Brazil's dam disaster – Hundreds of people are still missing after a dam burst in the central Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, sparking an avalanche of mud and mining waste that killed and injured many. This is the second deadly dam accident for Brazilian mining giant Vale in just three years, and it could prove politically damaging for Brazil's recently inaugurated president, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro ran as a pro-business and anti-regulation conservative, pledging to cut onerous environmental regulations. We'll be watching to see how he responds to growing pressure to crack down on one of Brazil's most important industries.


A breakthrough in Afghan peace talks? – US and Taliban negotiators have reportedly agreed in principle to a framework deal to bring about an end to America's longest war. Under the agreement, the US would commit to the eventual withdrawal of its 14,000 troops in return for a Taliban-backed ceasefire and peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government. To date, the Taliban has refused to talk to the central government in Kabul, whose authority it views as illegitimate. On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a nationally televised address in which he applauded the agreement and called on Taliban to embrace direct talks. We're watching to see if the latest development represents a real step toward peace or is instead an effort by the Trump administration to dress up a predetermined decision to leave Afghanistan.

What We're Ignoring:

The United Arab Emirates' gender inclusiveness awards UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum handed out awards for "best government entity supporting gender balance," "best federal authority supporting gender balance," and "best gender balance initiative" at a ceremony on Sunday celebrating progress toward greater gender inclusion within Emirati government agencies. There was just one problem: the recipients were all men. The optics are terrible, and we're ignoring these awards. But, to be fair, the UAE does boast the best gender equality record in the Arab world, according to a UN study. It also recently doubled paid leave for new mothers to 90 days, unlike the US, which doesn't have a nationwide paid maternity leave policy.

"Red scarves" protests in France – It's been more than 11 weeks since tens of thousands of gilets jaunes – or "Yellow Vest" – protesters began occupying intersections in cities and towns across France. Now the weekend protests, which have sparked France's worst street violence since the late 1960s, have spawned a counter-movement. Enter the "red scarves," who turned out in the thousands over the weekend to denounce the "insurrectional climate" created by the rowdy yellow vests. We're all for calm, civil debate here at Signal, but it's hard to see how a protest movement calling for moderation can sustain enough energy to make a difference. In protest against this sartorial tomfoolery, your Signal authors have decided to don white berets.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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As COP26 nears, the need for real climate action has never been more urgent. There are reasons for hope, but many scientists believe the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is unattainable without immediate and significant change. Governments, financial institutions, and private sector companies alike have all recognized the need for a multistakeholder approach to solving this crisis of a lifetime.

Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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