Conspiracy theories

Balance of Power

The chants of "no mask," "hands off the children" and "liberty" rang out this weekend near Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium.

A modest crowd of about 1,500 people was voicing anger against government rules and restrictions put in place to fight the coronavirus. Rallies in countries including Germany, the U.S. and Australia have drawn a mix of right-wing groups, people who deny that Covid-19 exists, and various conspiracy theorists.

As the Rome demonstration displayed, the whirlpool of such sentiments is still relatively marginal. While protests in Berlin have drawn much larger crowds, an opinion poll this month in Germany showed that only 15% of those surveyed thought Chancellor Angela Merkel's social distancing and other measures had gone too far.

But as the QAnon movement in the U.S. has shown, some ideas are starting to enter the mainstream. Its adherents believe Donald Trump is battling a ring of pedophiles in government and a "deep state" bureaucracy.

The letter Q can be seen on shirts and hats at the president's campaign rallies. He's declined to disavow it and has retweeted QAnon content. Last week, Trump's election opponent Joe Biden suggested its followers should receive mental health care.

While QAnon has been brewing in the U.S. since late 2017, there also have been signs in Europe of growing discontent over the supposedly oppressive power of the overarching "state" — as was shown in the Brexit referendum.

The coronavirus, many governments' poor response to it and the stress the disease has put on businesses and families appear to be fueling the phenomenon.

With new cases spiking in Europe, due largely to increased travel, and governments grappling with how to ease restrictions to restart their ravaged economies, it's likely only to grow stronger.

Karl Maier 

A QAnon bumper sticker on a car outside a Trump campaign rally in Yuma, Arizona, on Aug. 18.

Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg

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Global Headlines

Path to re-election | Trump's campaign is pouring resources into winning Minnesota, betting that rising public opposition to Black Lives Matter protests will tip an historically Democratic state the president narrowly lost four years ago. Trump trails Biden in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states that helped him win in 2016. That's got the president's campaign working on an alternative path: possibly some combination of wins in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine and Nevada.

Campaign 2020

There are 57 days until the election. Here's the latest on the race for control of the White House and Congress.

Biden holds a 10-point lead over Trump, with support for each candidate solidifying, a CBS News poll shows. Four in 10 Democrats say Biden isn't campaigning enough; half of independents agree. The top issue for voters was the economy, followed by health care, the coronavirus outbreak, and recent protests.

Other developments:

Sign up to receive daily election updates as a direct mobile notification on Twitter. Simply click on this link and like the tweet.

Read here about how the world economy's rebound from the depths of the coronavirus crisis is fading, setting up an uncertain finish to the year.

Demonstrations resume | Hong Kong police arrested hundreds of pro-democracy activists at a weekend rally held to protest the one-year delay of the city's legislative election, originally scheduled for Sunday. The unrest follows a period of relative calm in the city following China's imposition of a national security law, which has made demonstrations less frequent.

  • Chinese authorities have delayed renewing the press credentials of some journalists working for American media outlets, including Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal and CNN, in response to the Trump administration limiting visa terms for Chinese reporters in the U.S.

Pipeline pressure | Merkel's government is ready to link its support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany to Moscow's cooperation with an inquiry into the poisoning of dissident Alexey Navalny, the chancellor's spokesman said today. In any case, as Vanessa Dezem reports, Europe may not need Nord Stream 2 to come online anytime soon.

Brexit's back | The U.K. issued a broadside against the European Union ahead of an eighth round of talks this week on their future relationship. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell the EU today that he's willing to walk away rather than compromise, while his government prepares legislation that would roll back the withdrawal deal he signed with the bloc this year. Even if it's all bluster the tactic isn't winning over allies or investors: The pound fell on the news.

Muscle flexing | The race for offshore gas deposits in the disputed Eastern Mediterranean has seen Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel claim territorial rights in one of the world's most crowded seas. But, as Marc Champion explains, the tensions run deeper, and the expansion of Turkey's navy reflects President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ambition to assert his country as a specifically Muslim regional power, able to go toe-to-toe with Europe, Russia and the U.S.

What to Watch This Week

  • U.S. and U.K. officials resume talks tomorrow over a bilateral trade agreement.
  • Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte made it clear to the corporate elite at a conference this weekend that he'll be calling the shots more often in a pandemic-stricken economy.
  • Peruvian Finance Minister Maria Antonieta Alva faces the biggest challenge of her career with opposition lawmakers set to grill her in congress today over the government's response to the pandemic.
  • Guinea opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo said he will challenge President Alpha Conde in the Oct. 18 election.
  • After meeting at the White House last week, Serbia and Kosovo leaders hold talks in Brussels today under EU auspices.

Thanks to all who responded to our pop quiz Friday and congratulations to Gage Holland, who was the first to correctly name the Czech Republic as the country from which a politician sparked China's ire with a trip to Taiwan.

And finally ... After Trump's planned trip to a French cemetery for fallen Marines was canceled in November 2018, the U.S. leader had time on his hands in a mansion filled with artwork. Trump fancied several of the pieces in the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris, and on a whim had them loaded onto Air Force One, Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams and Katya Kazakina report.

Figurines of Greek mythical characters Trump ordered removed from the French ambassador's residence in November 2018, now on display in the Oval Office.

Photographer: Justin Sink/Bloomberg



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