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Hard Numbers: Viennese protest mandates, Auckland’s lockdown ends, botched ambush in India, Italian takes up arm against vaccines
December 05, 2021
40,000: At least 40,000 people joined protests in Vienna on Saturday against new lockdowns and vaccine requirements, the second week in a row the city has seen mass demonstrations of this kind. Amid a surge in new cases, the Austrian government announced that a nationwide vaccine mandate would come into effect on February 1.
107: Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, has come out of a citywide lockdown put in place 107 days ago to curb the spread of the delta variant. Still, for now, only vaccinated Aucklanders will be permitted to travel to other parts of the country.
13: Tensions are high in the state of Nagaland in northeast India after Indian troops mistakenly ambushed a group of miners on their way back from work, killing six of them. Clashes then broke out between civilians and soldiers, bringing the death toll to 13. Indian forces have long been at war with separatists in the region, though violence has declined since the two sides signed a peace deal in 2015.
416: An Italian man tried to get around his country’s vaccine requirements by showing up to a clinic with a prosthetic arm believed to cost 416 euros on Amazon. He almost got away with it until the health worker, sensing something amiss, asked him to take off his shirt.
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December 05, 2021
Countries that rely hugely on tourism and travel dollars have already been reeling from the pandemic, as lockdowns and new COVID variants cause people to avoid airports and stay home. Now the omicron variant is scuttling holiday travel plans that many were hoping would infuse fresh cash into their struggling economies. So who is most concerned about these disruptions to the tourism industry? We take a look at economies that saw the biggest boost from tourism dollars from 2008-2019, and how that changed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
Ian Bremmer interviews economist Larry Summers on GZERO World. Summers served as the Treasury Secretary under President Clinton and as the Director of the National Economic Council under Preisdent Obama. He sounded the alarm bell about inflation back in February 2021 when few people were talking about it. Part of the reason prices are rising so much today, Summers says, is because the Biden administration made the political decision to do "too much stimulus," a big mistake in his view. Summers discusses how supply chain problems are also contributed to the highest levels of inflation in the US in 30 years.
Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Inflation nation: What's driving US prices higher?
Subscribe to GZERO on YouTube to be the first to see new episodes of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: http://bit.ly/2TxCVnY
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December 02, 2021
The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.
The WTA, which wants to be able to interview Peng outside of China, says it’s putting principle above profit in a country where it reportedly has more than $100 million on the line. The NBA, by contrast, which has been famously reluctant to criticize China, has operations there worth some $5 billion. (Spot the difference?)
The decision by the WTA — the first major sports organization to ditch China over human rights questions — will add momentum to longstanding calls for a boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, despite the International Olympic Committee’s “unanimous conclusion” that Peng is fine.
Until now, the Olympic boycott campaign has focused chiefly on China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. But Peng Shuai attaches name recognition, star power, and a courageous personal story to the issue in a way that could galvanize wider awareness and pressure. Influential global tennis superstars like Serena Williams and Novak Djoković have already praised the WTA's decision, and trending hashtags abound.
The Biden administration, for its part, says it is considering a “diplomatic boycott,” in which top officials would not travel to the Games. Britain and Canada have floated similar ideas, but to actually keep their athletes from competing would be a major escalation. The US hasn’t done so since boycotting the 1980 Moscow Summer Games over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan a year earlier.
The boycott dilemma. Doubtless a boycott by the world’s largest economy — and perennial top medalist at the Games — would be a blow to China’s prestige. But in addition to considering the impact on athletes, Washington would also need to answer an important global political question: how many other countries — particularly smaller ones wary of angering a cash-flush China — would actually follow suit?
Biden wants the world to believe that “America is Back” — but if the US stands up with a boycott that few others follow, it could look like an own-goal.
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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:
How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?
Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.
What's the turmoil in Sweden about governance?Hmm, that's a long story. It goes back to a very complicated parliamentary situation and the fact that the government, the coalition government, and the arrangement that kept in place collapsed. And then we had turmoil and turmoil. And we now have, we are first female prime minister, a very weak coalition government, the budget has been dictated by the opposition. It will survive until the September election. It can't get anything done, but it will survive. And then it's going to be the September election next year that decides the governors of Sweden in the years ahead.
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December 04, 2021
Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?
Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?
Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:
What are the DSA and the DMA?
Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.
Are these laws on the books yet?
Well, not quite yet. And I think this is where there might be some confusion. The news this week was that the rapid agreement among the ministers of member states was significant, and the European Commission had already presented its position. So now the three-way negotiations with them and the European parliament are next before the laws can be finalized and then have to be implemented across the EU. But the rapid adoption by ministers does show that updating laws for the digital economy is a key priority for European leaders.
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