Enter the Crocodile

Meet Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Known as “the crocodile,” Mnangagwa is often described as smart, quiet, and cruel. Thought to be 75 years old, though that’s a subject of some controversy, he proved vigorous enough to bring down political titan Robert Mugabe when the aging ruler fired him as vice president on November 6 to clear a succession path for his wife. Mnangagwa says Mrs. Mugabe recently tried to kill him with poisoned ice cream.


Where did Africa’s newest leader come from? To challenge white rule in his country, then known as Rhodesia, he got his military training in Mao’s China and Nasser’s Egypt. He was captured and tortured by Rhodesian authorities. After ten years in prison, he practiced law in Zambia, served as Mugabe’s bodyguard in Mozambique, and then helped lead his country to independence in 1980. In the decade that followed, he led the security services, helping Mugabe spy on the Zimbabwean people. Mnangagwa has been accused at various times of ordering attacks on opposition leaders and civilians. Like Mugabe, he’s variously described as liberator and murderer. His name is associated with atrocities and blood diamonds. For now, he has the support of the men with the guns.

What sort of president will he be? Most likely a smart, quiet, and cruel one. Sadly, he’s unlikely to make the Zimbabwean 20 trillion dollar note I keep on my desk much more valuable than the paperclips sitting next to it. It takes more than ice cream to kill a crocodile, and more than a change of president to mend a badly broken society.

Amid the current need to continually focus on the COVID-19 crisis, it is understandably hard to address other important issues. But, on March 31st, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed landmark facial recognition legislation that the state legislature passed on March 12, less than three weeks, but seemingly an era, ago. Nonetheless, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the importance of this step. This legislation represents a significant breakthrough – the first time a state or nation has passed a new law devoted exclusively to putting guardrails in place for the use of facial recognition technology.

For more on Washington's privacy legislation, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Read our roundup of COVID-19 themes and stories from around the globe.

Europe skirts US sanctions to help Iran: While the US insists on tightening the sanctions noose around COVID-stricken Iran, European countries are now sending medical equipment. To do so, they are using for the first time a system called INSTEX, a back-channel financial mechanism created a year ago that allows Europe to maintain trade ties with Iran despite US sanctions. Recall that in 2018 the US pulled out of the multilateral Iran nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions – the Europeans stayed in the deal and have tried to salvage it. To date, Iran has suffered more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, one of the highest tolls in the world. Some say that Iran's failure to contain the contagion has been complicated further by US sanctions, which have thwarted the Islamic Republic's ability to fund medical imports. Tehran has urged the US to ease sanctions to no avail, but Ayatollah Khamenei has also, citing some wild conspiracy theories about the coronavirus' origin, refused medical aid from Washington.

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Laid-off hospitality workers tell their stories in their own words.

Ian Bremmer breaks down the massive economic toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on the hospitality and service industries in America and around the globe. In the U.S. alone, millions could face unemployment as businesses struggle to stay afloat.

Over the past decade or so, the European Union has weathered the global financial crisis, a migrant crisis, and the rise of populist nationalism. Sure, it's taken its fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, but the idea of a largely borderless Europe united by common democratic values has survived more or less intact.

Then came the coronavirus. The global pandemic, in which Europe is now one of the two main epicentres, is a still-spiralling nightmare that could make those previous crises look benign by comparison. Here are a few different ways that COVID-19 is severely testing the 27-member bloc:

The economic crisis: Lockdowns intended to stop the virus' spread have brought economic activity to a screeching halt, and national governments are going to need to spend a lot of money to offset the impact. But some EU members can borrow those funds more easily than others. Huge debt loads and deficits in southern European countries like Italy and Spain, which have been hardest hit by the outbreak so far, make it costlier for them to borrow than more fiscally conservative Germany and other northern member states. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, this imbalance nearly led the bloc's common currency, the Euro, to unravel.

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