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Congressional Democrats have a tall order ahead.
Their challenge, at the start of public impeachment hearings today against President Donald Trump, is to shift public opinion in an already-polarized nation.
Americans are roughly split on whether Trump should be removed from office for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his chief Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Unlike the Watergate scandal, though, TV, radio and social media more openly cater to the right or left and will spin the events furiously.
Democrats led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff are hoping people will turn against Trump after watching veteran U.S. diplomats say he tied aid to Ukraine to it probing Biden and his son Hunter over business dealings there. Republicans argue there was no explicit quid pro quo and, even if it there was, that it’s not an impeachable offense.
Expect the hearings to get testy given the bitterly partisan climate. In the end, while the House is expected to vote for impeachment, chances the Republican-controlled Senate will agree are remote.
A defiant Trump may suffer political damage and the Democrats will face charges the process was a waste of time and money.
But as the 2020 election campaign gathers steam, both sides will probably end up where they started: all square.
“Unthinkable” consequences | Hong Kong announced it would close public schools as officials — along with China’s state media — warned of consequences from the violence that’s rocked the city for days. Still, further rallies are expected tonight after activists disrupted the morning rush-hour commute and held demonstrations in the glitzy financial center in the afternoon.
Latin America crises | Bolivian opposition Senator Jeanine Anez declared herself interim president to replace socialist leader Evo Morales. She has the backing of Carlos Mesa, the runner-up in a disputed October election, while Morales supporters continue to clash with police. Morales has fled to Mexico as nations in the region take sides over his ouster.
Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera called for a national agreement on peace and a new constitution as security forces struggled to control protests across central Santiago. It was some of the worst violence Chile has seen since civil unrest erupted on Oct. 18.
Digging in | The French government is bracing for major strikes next month over planned pension reforms — which risk morphing into a renewal of the “Yellow Vest” mass unrest. While Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told Bloomberg yesterday the government won’t delay the changes, he did indicate it may be prepared to sweeten the deal for unions.
Read here for Philippe’s view on European bank consolidation and the call by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz for a banking union.
Putin’s shadow | Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan both got what they wanted in northern Syria last month, but when they meet at the White House today, the next critical issue up for discussion might be harder to crack. As Selcan Hacaoglu reports, Turkey’s deployment of a Russian missile-defense system shows President Vladimir Putin is enjoying some success in driving a wedge between NATO and Turkey.
Climate debate | Australia’s record on tackling climate change is getting tougher to defend for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as bushfires ravage the east coast. His government refuses to discuss whether global warming has contributed to a longer dry season: One lawmaker even questioned if environmentalists had increased the threat of the fires that have killed three people and destroyed around 2.5 million acres of farmland and bush.
What to Watch
Trump warned yesterday the U.S. will increase tariffs on China if they can’t agree on the first step of a broader trade agreement, but also said they’re close to an initial deal. Lebanon faces more violence after President Michel Aoun told anti-government demonstrators to go home yesterday, provoking unrest in which one man was killed. Floods in northern England have forced hundreds of people from their homes, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deploy troops as his Conservatives vie for votes in the region in next month’s elections. Spain’s long-stalled politics are moving again after acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sealed a pact with rival Pablo Iglesias to form a government. Click here to see what happens next.
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And finally ... Among Lagos’s 21 million residents dealing with shortages of everything from water to electricity and decent roads, the concept of formal recycling isn’t widespread. But informal collectors of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are finding they can earn serious money. As Yinka Ibukun explains, that’s led regulators, sustainability groups, and representatives of the local units and distributors of Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to hash out a standard allowing drinks companies to package products in recycled plastics.
--With assistance from Karen Leigh.
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