Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.
Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.
Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.
But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?
<p><strong>In recent years, the Chinese leadership has actively engaged</strong> <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-china/afghan-rivals-to-meet-in-china-after-us-talks-stall-idUSKBN1X20C7" target="_blank">both</a> the Western-backed government in Kabul and — given the likelihood they will eventually regain some degree of political power — <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/69110b85-bce9-45cb-a2f4-eadcd3edc6e3" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Taliban fighters</a>, in hopes of ending the never-ending conflicts that have long made Afghanistan ungovernable. </p><p><strong>China has good reason to become more deeply involved.</strong> Afghanistan shares a short border with China's mainly Muslim Xinjiang region, and Beijing has long feared that instability in Afghanistan, heightened as the US and NATO prepare to withdraw troops, might allow Uighur separatists to use Afghan territory as a <a href="https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/uyghur-factor-china-perceives-afghanistan-threat" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">base for military operations</a>. China also sees Afghanistan as an arena in which to promote stronger commercial and security ties with its Pakistani ally and gain advantage on its Indian rival. </p><p>Most importantly, Afghanistan offers major new economic opportunities for China via potential expansion across Afghan territory of China's <a href="https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-massive-belt-and-road-initiative" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Belt and Road</a> infrastructure development project. Beyond the interest of Chinese companies in its <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/China-Buys-into-Afghanistan-Erica-Downs.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">mineral wealth</a>, Afghanistan is China's <a href="https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/slowly-but-surely-china-is-moving-into-afghanistan-24276" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">direct overland path to the Middle East</a>. It could also become part of the <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/beijing-cautiously-ramps-up-belt-and-road-dreams-in-pakistan-afghanistan/30862796.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">China-Pakistan Economic Corridor</a>, a project of central economic and geopolitical importance for Belt and Road. </p><p><strong>Deeper Chinese involvement might bring all kinds of good things for Afghanistan.</strong> All of the country's factions know China has staying power and a willingness to spend that others won't match. If China can persuade Afghanistan's government, the Taliban leadership, and local warlords that a sustainable power-sharing deal might make them all rich, it could bring a degree of stability that no foreign occupier can. Belt and Road could provide badly-needed infrastructure and the trade and investment opportunities that come with them. </p><p><strong>And that's great… unless you're an Afghan who needs outside powers to try to force powerful locals to respect your rights.</strong> As we've written in the past, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/05/crucial-moment-womens-rights-afghanistan" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Afghanistan's women</a> in particular face a precarious existence in a world where the fundamentalist Taliban exert major influence. Women and girls stand to lose <a href="https://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/gender-participant-training" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">significant gains in health and education</a> made over the past two decades if Taliban promises to preserve them prove empty. Whatever high-minded rhetoric is written into diplomatic deals between China and Afghan factions, protections for human rights inside Afghanistan will never be a Chinese priority. </p><p><strong>Or maybe it's all a mirage.</strong> Before China commits to big long-term investments — economic, political, and theoretically military if Chinese assets are threatened — its leadership must calculate whether engagement is a sustainable strategy. What if Afghan power brokers eventually decide they'd rather fight over spoils than keep the peace in their common interest? What if Taliban leaders can't control every Taliban faction? What if mounting debt, for both Pakistan and Afghanistan, make expanded regional infrastructure investment too risky? </p><p>Over the years, China's leaders have seen Britons, Europeans, Russians, and Americans stuck in Afghanistan without an exit strategy. Those are mistakes no one in Beijing is eager to repeat.</p>
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February 25, 2021
In the fall of 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would change the world, Ian Bremmer asked Dr. Fauci what kept him up at night and he described a "a pandemic-like respiratory infection." Fast-forward to late February 2021 and Dr. Fauci tells Ian, "I think we are living through much of that worst nightmare." Dr. Fauci returns to GZERO World to take stock of the nightmare year and to paint a picture of what the end of the pandemic could look like—and when it could finally arrive.
Catch the full episode of GZERO World, where Dr. Fauci discusses the latest in vaccine roll out, schools re-openings, and plenty more, on US public television stations nationwide, beginning Friday, February 26. Check local listings.
The most ambitious global vaccination drive in history is in motion. Over the past three months, more than 213 million COVID-19 shots have been administered across 95 countries, and the vaccination rate is slowly increasing. At the current rate, around 6.11 million doses are being administered daily.
It's a rare bit of hopeful news after 15 months of collective misery. So where do things stand at the moment, and what's keeping the world from getting to herd immunity faster?
<p><strong>Vaccines for the neediest.</strong> The <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-covax-state-of-play" target="_self">COVAX facility</a>, formed last summer to ensure cash-strapped countries get their hands on vaccines, shipped the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines to the West African country of <a href="https://apnews.com/article/world-news-ghana-health-coronavirus-pandemic-africa-f8058eed5b2935d1d22931ef321e807b?utm_source=dailybrief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyBrief2021Feb24&utm_term=DailyNewsBrief" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Ghana</a> on Wednesday. Neighboring Ivory Coast will be next in line, and could start vaccinating its 26 million people as soon as next week.</p><p>The COVAX rollout is a big deal given that so far, 75 percent of all shots worldwide have been administered in just <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/19/covid-vaccine" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">10 wealthy countries.</a> But there are still massive shortfalls in the program. For one thing, the facility's commitment to provide 2 billion vaccines to 92 low-income countries covers shots for only 20 percent of the population in those states, far below the herd immunity threshold of about 70 percent. For another, the vaccines are arriving slowly: Ghana, for instance, has received only <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-ghana-vaccines/first-covid-19-vaccine-doses-dispatched-by-covax-arrive-in-ghana-idUSL8N2KT6I7" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">600,000 doses</a>, covering 1 percent of its population. </p><p>So far, COVAX's ability to <a href="https://www.statnews.com/pharmalot/2021/02/22/covid19-coronavirus-vaccine-who-covax-pfizer-jnj-moderna-astrazeneca/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reach its goal</a> remains precarious, in part because of <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-covax/u-s-alone-wont-fill-covax-funding-gap-lead-official-says-idUSKBN29R1Q3" target="_blank">funding</a> shortfalls as well as global supply issues — drugs simply aren't being made fast enough to cover people spanning the 54 countries waiting on jabs through the scheme. </p><p><strong>Early stars of the vaccine show. </strong>Several countries are doing a top-notch job at getting needles into arms. </p><p>When <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632863-300-how-south-america-became-the-new-centre-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">South America</a> became a COVID hotspot last summer, <strong>Chile </strong>emerged as an epicenter within an epicenter, recording one of the world's <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/chile-coronavirus-lockdown-sebastian-pinera/2020/06/23/70e9701a-b4a7-11ea-aca5-ebb63d27e1ff_story.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">fastest growing</a> caseloads. Now, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/19/world/chile-vaccination-romo-latam-intl/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Chile </a>is overseeing one of the world's most efficient vaccine rollouts, having vaccinated over 16 percent of its population already, the fifth highest in the world. Santiago succeeded by diversifying its procurement efforts (buying doses from China's Sinovac, Pfizer-BioNTech, as well as through COVAX), and turning <a href="https://www.laprensalatina.com/chile-offers-drive-up-coronavirus-vaccination/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">any public space</a> into a mass vaccination site. </p><p><strong>Israel </strong>has now vaccinated over 88 percent of its population of 9 million, leading the global vaccination race by a long shot. Analysts say that Israel's <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startupnationcentral/2019/03/26/how-israel-turned-decades-of-medical-data-into-digital-health-gold/?sh=6b474da43ee4" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">digitized universal health-care infrastructure </a>has made it easier to monitor the vaccination drive and quickly identify groups of eligible people. But for all its successes, Israel has not ensured equitable access to Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, many of whom regularly cross into Israel. At the same time, the government plans on sending up to 100,000 doses to far-flung places like Honduras, Chad, and the Czech Republic in <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-said-set-to-give-nearly-100000-vaccine-doses-to-15-countries/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">exchange for</a> their diplomatic backing.</p><p>Lastly, after the <strong>UK</strong> bungled its pandemic containment effort (it has one of the world's highest <a href="https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality" target="_blank">per capita death tolls</a>) Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed course to manage one of the most <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/world/europe/covid-vaccine-uk.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">efficient vaccine drives </a>in the world. Having inoculated a third of all British adults (with at least one dose), British authorities now <a href="https://apnews.com/article/europe-europe-coronavirus-pandemic-bd6d355e8c5f3c1b2d007c1ceb5a7453" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">say </a>that all adults should get a first COVID shot by July 31, more than a month earlier than originally planned.</p><p><strong>Queue jumping and inequality.</strong> Still, access to vaccines remains deeply unequal within many countries. </p><p>The World Bank this week <a href="https://apnews.com/article/world-news-financial-markets-lebanon-coronavirus-pandemic-31e2b62e118b81d6a5725f22b240ef4b" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">threatened</a> to cut off funding for <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/is-lebanon-collapsing" target="_self">cash-strapped</a><strong> Lebanon's </strong>vaccine program after Lebanese politicians bypassed eligibility rules to secure vaccines for themselves and their cronies. This took place mere weeks after the country<a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/01/08/954478781/lebanons-full-hospitals-turn-away-coronavirus-patients-amid-record-daily-cases" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> experienced </a>a surge in COVID cases, overwhelming hospitals. The revelation sparked outrage among many Lebanese already disillusioned by the <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/lebanon/2020-08-14/corrupt-political-class-broke-lebanon" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">corruption </a>plaguing the country's ruling elite.</p><p>A similar scandal has gripped <strong>Peru, </strong>where some 500 former and current government officials admitted to<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/peru-coronavirus-vaccine-scandal/2021/02/17/81ef7958-712c-11eb-93be-c10813e358a2_story.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> skipping vaccine queues</a> to snatch jabs intended for healthcare workers. </p><p>Lastly, inequality of access isn't just a problem at the global scale — it's happening even within some of the wealthier countries that have had easy access to vaccines — like the <strong>US.</strong> While America's piecemeal vaccine drive has ramped up after a shaky start, access for Black and Latino communities still lags in many parts of the country. <a href="https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-21/governor-admits-problems-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-latino-black-communities" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">California</a> Governor Gavin Newsom came under fire when it emerged that of the 7.3 million doses administered in the state, only 2.9 percent have gone to Black residents, <a href="https://censusreporter.org/profiles/04000US06-california/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">who make up</a> 6.5 percent of the population, and 16 percent to Latinos (who account for 38 percent). Similar <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/01/us/racial-disparities-covid-19-vaccine-access-new-york/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">trends</a> have been detected in New York. </p>
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February 25, 2021
Egypt and Sudan want some dam help: Cairo and Khartoum have called on the US, EU, and UN to intervene in their ongoing dispute with neighboring Ethiopia over that country's construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile. Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream of Ethiopia and worry about their farmers losing water, want binding targets and dispute resolution mechanisms, while Ethiopia, which sees the dam as a critical piece of its economic future, wants more flexibility and has given little ground in talks. Efforts by the African Union to mediate have failed as Ethiopia presses ahead with filling the dam even after being sanctioned by the Trump administration last year for doing so. The dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as it is called, has threatened to spill into military conflict at several points in recent years. Can the "international community" turn things around?
<p><strong>India-Pakistan ceasefire:</strong> <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/pakistan-versus-india-nuclear-powers-by-the-numbers-2630284489" target="_self">Longtime foes</a> India and Pakistan have<a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/25/india-pakistan-agree-to-stop-cross-border-firing-in-kashmir" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> agreed</a> to a ceasefire in the predominantly Muslim area of Kashmir for the first time in almost two decades. (A 2003 ceasefire along the <a href="https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-between-india-and-pakistan" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Line of Control</a> was consistently violated.) In theory, this means that armed forces from both South Asian nations have agreed to stop exchanging fire across the border by midnight Friday, in a bid to end a low-grade conflict that's killed hundreds of locals and military personnel over the past few decades. Relations between the two sides have long been hostile but soured further in 2019 when New Delhi blamed Islamabad for a terror attack that killed 30 Indian military personnel, resulting in a series of tit-for-tat attacks and cross-border skirmishes. The row between the two nuclear powers went from bad to worse that same year, when India <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/31/india-strips-kashmir-of-special-status-and-divides-it-in-two" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">revoked </a>Kashmir's special status in an attempt to integrate the region into India, irking Islamabad and sparking an uptick in violence. However, the two sides have committed to halting hostilities and sorting out the status of disputed Kashmir before — it would be a massive feat if they can pull it off this time around. </p><strong>Coup in Armenia?</strong> Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused the army of <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56194421" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">attempting to stage a coup</a> after the military establishment called on him to step down over the PM's alleged foreign policy blunders in the <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/war-in-the-south-caucasus" target="_self">Nagorno-Karabakh conflict</a> with <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-graphic-truth-how-do-azerbaijan-and-armenia-stack-up" target="_blank">Azerbaijan</a>. The PM — who has been <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/what-were-watching-illiberals-veto-eu-budget-bangladeshs-all-female-cop-unit-armenian-pm-in-trouble" target="_self">under pressure to resign for months</a> over his ill-fated decision to surrender some territory to the Azeris in order to stop the conflict and ensure a longterm truce — responded by firing the head of the armed forces. Meanwhile, thousands of Pashinyan's supporters heeded his call to turn up on the streets of the capital, Yerevan, where they were met by a similar number of <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/unrest-in-armenia-after-claims-of-attempted-coup/31121396.html" target="_blank">anti-government demonstrators</a>. With the two main opposition parties supporting the army's demand for the PM to call it quits, Pashinyan is fast running out of options to stay in power. Meanwhile, of the two main outside players involved in Nagorno-Karabakh, so far Turkey has <a href="https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkey-condemns-coup-attempt-in-armenia/2156830" target="_blank">condemned</a> the coup attempt, while Russia has kept mum. Indeed, Pashinyan's political survival could in part depend on Russia, which has forces and military bases in Armenia. What will Vladimir Putin do?
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