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While We Were Distracted

While We Were Distracted

While much of the world focused on the Trump-Kim summit, the Michael Cohen testimony, and threats of war between India and Pakistan, there were lots of big developments in other places this week. Don't believe us? Check out this sample, with details on why we can't ignore them:


US-China: Forging Ahead

Trump announced "substantial progress" in negotiations with China last Sunday that led to postponement of a deadline that would have pushed tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods to alarming levels.

After the failure to make progress with North Korea, the president now has extra incentive to hope for a breakthrough that allows him to sign a major agreement with Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago later this month. Trump's lead trade advisor reassured Congress this week that Trump will continue to drive a hard bargain.

Nigeria: Same as the Old Boss

The election was delayed a week, and deadly violence marred the process, but Muhammadu Buhari has been reelected as Nigeria's president.

That's where the good news ends for the winning candidate. The ailing 76-year-old president must now manage a court challenge from his defeated opponent, a struggling economy, a continuing threat from Boko Haram militants, high unemployment, and a fast-expanding population of young people. Still, the worst-case scenario—an inconclusive result and fears of major social unrest—appears to have been averted.

Brexit: May Gives Way

On Brexit, the UK Parliament took decisive steps this week toward the moment when Britain's leaders decide that they just can't decide.

On Wednesday, Parliament endorsed Prime Minister Theresa May's concession that departure from the EU, now scheduled for March 29, might have to be delayed. Then, after Parliament voted down a one-page outline of his party's plan for a soft Brexit, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who voted against British entry into the EU in 1975, grudgingly announced support for a second Brexit referendum.

US/Russia: Cyber-Shots Fired

US officials announced this week that during and after last November's US midterm elections, the US Defense Department launched a cyber-assault that knocked Russia's Internet Research Agency, a notorious troll farm, off the Internet.

The attack is significant because it was reportedly approved by President Trump and because it's an example of the sort of pre-emptive cyber-strike the White House says the US will use more often to "expose and counter the flood of online malign influence and information campaigns" widely attributed to Russia.

Israel: A February Surprise

Less than six weeks before elections, Israel's attorney general announced on Thursday that he will indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on fraud and bribery charges. A recent public poll suggests this news might just flip the vote.

The likeliest beneficiary is former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White Alliance with former Finance Minister Yair Lapid is considered the toughest challenger to Netanyahu's Likud.

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