CHANNELING GEOPOLITICS: THREE STORIES ABOUT CANALS

CHANNELING GEOPOLITICS: THREE STORIES ABOUT CANALS

Some people build walls to cut off their rivals, but Saudi Arabia is taking its ongoing diplomatic dispute with Qatar to a whole other (sea) level. Riyadh reportedly wants to dig a canal along their shared 38-mile border that would turn the small, peninsular kingdom into an actual island. If that weren’t enough, part of the canal zone is to be used for dumping nuclear waste. Last year, Saudi Arabia and the UAE isolated the Qataris symbolically, by imposing an air and sea blockade over Doha’s alleged support for terrorism (psst: it was really about long-running tensions between a House of Saud that sees itself as the neighborhood heavy and a Qatari monarchy that has shrewdly sought to be an independent player in the Gulf.) But a year later, the embargo seemsonly to have strengthened Qatar’s economic and diplomatic resilience. If the canal gets built, how bad could island life be?


Meanwhile, now that Turkey’s President Erdogan has secured his supercharged presidency, let’s see if he follows through on a megalomaniacal infrastructure project to match. The Kanal Istanbul — which would bypass the treacherous Bosporus strait as an easily navigable link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean — is by Erdogan’s own admission a “crazy” project and a “dream.” But officials have been laying the groundwork for the project in recent months. What a way it would be for Erdogan to celebrate the centenary of the modern Turkish state in 2023. One critical issue to consider is that while international law regulates free passage for merchant and military vessels through the chronically-congested Bosporus, any new canal would be entirely under Istanbul’s jurisdiction, giving Erdogan huge discretion over Russian, American, and potentially Chinese access to the Black Sea. That won’t sit well with Putin, Trump, or Xi, will it?

Da ultimo, we travel to the most famous canal city of all — Venice — where Chinese policemen have recently completed a seasonal pilot program to patrol the city’s plazas and waterways with their Italian counterparts. The program, which Marco Polo himself would doubtless love, is now in its third year and it reflects the tremendous surge of Chinese global tourism in recent years. According to the latest figures from the UN World Tourism Organization, Chinese tourists spent $261 billion abroad in 2016, roughly equal to outlays by American, German, and British travelers combined. That China is sending its own policemen — unarmed and accompanied though they may be — to patrol foreign cities (Rome and Milan are also part of the program) is a subtle but extraordinary milestone in the expansion of China’s global clout. In a sense it mirrors the broader sweep of Chinese power today, in which Beijing is broadening its commercial and infrastructure networks first — and then slowly looks to expand its military reach to protect those assets thereafter.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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