What We're Watching

Civil war endgame in Libya? – General Khalifa Haftar – a warlord who controls parts of Libya – has launched a military assault on Tripoli to seize the capital city from a UN-backed government there. The background is that after Muammar Qaddafi was killed in 2011 and Libya fell into civil war, Haftar, a former Qaddafi general who turned against his former boss, became a powerful warlord. Earlier this year, he seized oil-rich territory in the country's south, and he's now making a play to reunify Libya on his own terms. The UN and US have condemned his move on the capital, but both have evacuated personnel.

Your score on the Xi Jinping app – At the urging of the government, tens of millions of Chinese citizens have downloaded a new multimedia app from the propaganda ministry that teaches people to think like President Xi Jinping. The app awards points for study and knowledge of the material. High scorers are praised by state media, low scorers are stigmatized at work and school. It's part of Xi's bid to bolster the power and appeal of the Communist Party. We're watching because it's another fascinating example of how authoritarian governments are appropriating the kinds of social media technologies that people once assumed would be forces for democratization and openness. The app is even used as a dating platform!

What We're Ignoring

"Black" Hungarians – Hungary's national opera house is currently staging American composer George Gershwin's 1935 work Porgy and Bess, a story of love, poverty, and violence set in a black community in the American South. But here's the problem: the performers are white, violating Gershwin estate rules that only black casts can perform the opera. Undaunted, the opera has gotten its performers to sign letters saying they "self-identify" as "African-American." A nice bit of cross-cultural trolling (and a swipe at "identity politics"), but we're ignoring this for two reasons: Hungarians are more Siberian than they are African or American, and because this production of Porgy and Bess really just sounds horrendous.

US sanctions against Iran's Republican Guard – On Monday, the Trump administration formally designated Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization" alongside other regional menaces like al-Qaeda and ISIS. This is the first time the US has added a branch of another country's military to this terrorist list, but beyond that, there's not much to see here. The IRGC already faces a huge number of sanctions, including American ones -- this symbolic move won't register as a significant new provocation of the IRGC. Blood between Washington and Tehran is already about as bad as it can be.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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