Notre Dame won't host debate; India bans Chinese apps; this year's Hajj

Ian Bremmer brings you his perspective on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Notre Dame withdrew from hosting the first presidential debate this fall. What does this mean for the debates in general?

I don't think it means very much. I mean, it obviously means that coronavirus is still very much with us and President Trump is in crisis mode. I mean, we just had Major League Baseball opening day, in a 60-game season, and some over a dozen players and coaches of the Miami team are found to have coronavirus. And so, they had to suspend some games. And the Yankees and Phillies are suspending a game. And, you know, it's all a mess, right? And whether or not we're even going to be able to have baseball is a question, so clearly, the presidential debate is going to be affected. You're not going to have a big live audience. It's going to be small and socially distant. But it is interesting that at this point, both Trump and Biden are planning to move ahead with a series of debates, given how unprecedented this campaign has been with it all about Trump and Biden essentially suspending anything that looks like a rally. A lot of the campaigning happening from videos from his basement. It was conceivable that one or both sides would disagree on format, number, or even whether they should have presidential debates. That's not going to happen. I do think that the expectations from Trump of Biden have been set so low, so sleepy, so low energy, so incapable, so incoherent, that if Biden has a reasonable showing, he's likely to come off comparatively a little hit. And that's, again, Biden's strategy is, this needs to all be about Trump. And so far, Trump is making that comparatively easy for him to do.


India is blocking more Chinese apps. How serious are tensions between the two countries?

Well, I mean, they're not serious in the sense that these are two nuclear powers, and no one's really concerned that they're going to go to war against each other. In other words, India-Pakistan years ago when they had their serious tensions in the months after 9/11, you'll remember people were concerned, might we be at the precipice of a regional nuclear war? Nobody is thinking about that with the Indians and the Chinese. Chinese massively outgun the Indians militarily and the Indians are standing down militarily. But the Indians are leaning in economically. It is largely about Indian nationalism. It's very widely popular for Narendra Modi in India, much as the unilateral decision to abrogate the autonomy for Kashmir was very popular domestically. And so, I think the economic tensions between the two countries are likely going to grow a lot of insecurity. And on the tech side is where you're particularly seeing it.

What's going on in Malaysia?

Well, the former prime minister, Najib, has been found guilty of corruption. About $10 million looks to have been siphoned to him illegally through the 1MDB, the former sovereign wealth fund that Goldman Sachs got caught up in, and they have to pay big fines and the US government's involved, and it's all really ugly. It's first time a former Malaysian prime minister has been so sentenced for corruption. There will be an appeal, surely, but I don't think it's going anywhere. The defense has been pretty bad. Doesn't really lead to a lot of instability in Malaysia, though.

How is this year's Hajj different from past pilgrimages?

Well, not a lot of people, right? I mean, you know, basically a tiny number of folks being allowed to the Hajj. And this was quite controversial in Saudi Arabia, but they saw that in other countries where they weren't suspending mass prayers, Pakistan in the early days in particular, you saw a massive explosion of cases. There's real concern about that in Saudi Arabia and so one of the most conservative societies in the region, but with a leader, Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince, who is very happy to take on religious authorities on issues that he thinks are problematic for Saudi economic development, like, for example, ending the autonomy for the military police, the religious police who no longer have the ability to, you know, sort of walk the streets and harass citizens for breaches of religious law, that's been a pretty meaningful change, saying that we're going to shut down the Hajj to all but a few pilgrims because we want to make sure that we don't have further outbreak, something that other Saudi leaders would have had a harder time with, MBS did not. So, you know, it's a dual-edged sword, as it were, in Saudi Arabia. There've been a lot of problems on human rights with this leadership, but also a lot of ability to go after the religious authorities. And on this front, the Saudis will likely benefit from it.

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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