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What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Nigeria's delayed elections – State officials postponed Nigeria's presidential and parliamentary election just hours before voting was to set to begin last weekend. President Muhammadu Buhari said that anyone who would tamper with the results would do so "at the expense of his life." The opposition called this threat "license to kill" and a "direct call for jungle justice." The votes will now be held this Saturday, February 23. The risk of a disputed election outcome and a prolonged period of political uncertainty for Africa's largest economy continues to rise.

Rebel UK lawmakers – Eight MPs broke away from the UK's opposition Labour Party this week. Their newly formed Independent Group's chief gripes are Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's ill-defined stance on Brexit and alleged tolerance of anti-Semitism within the party. The dissidents also hope to attract anti-Brexit Tories to their centrist vision of "evidence-based" policymaking. Three members of governing party quickly joined their ranks. We are watching this despite a history of failed centrist breakaway movements in the UK and some early stumbles out of the gate. Anything that could potentially break two years of Brexit deadlock is welcome at this point.


WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Nicolas Maduro, concert promoter – Later this week, some of the Spanish-speaking world's biggest musical acts will take the stage in the Colombian town of Cúcuta, on the Venezuelan border. The gig, backed by billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and endorsed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó – who, with broad international support, claims the presidency – is meant to raise $100m to fund humanitarian relief for the country's beleaguered population. Not to be outdone, strongman President Nicolas Maduro, whose troops have been blocking aid shipments from the US and Colombia for fear that they are cover for a military intervention, announced two rival pro-regime concerts on the Venezuelan side of the border this weekend. We are ignoring Maduro's foray into concert promotion, because Branson's massive international event will dwarf what the embattled Venezuelan leader can pull off. Whether that convinces Maduro to open the border to aid, however, is less clear.

Russian libertarians – A Russian publisher claimed this week that sales of Ayn Rand's libertarian manifesto Atlas Shrugged surged 40 percent from 2017 to 2018. This follows recent news that a majority of Russians believe their government "always" or "largely" hides the truth when describing the country's economy, its crime rates, and the strength of its social safety net. Another recent poll suggests the huge popularity boost Vladimir Putin earned from the 2014 invasion of Crimea is now gone. Are these signs of change? Not yet. Some three quarters of Russians say they wouldn't volunteer for a civil society organization or participate in a street protest because they are pointless. Apathy – shrugging, if you will – remains a potent political force in Russia.

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