Civil rights activist Janet Murguía joins the 'That Made All the Difference' podcast to discuss her upbringing as the daughter of immigrant parents and how that experience informs her life's work advocating for Hispanic-Latino civil rights and battling systemic inequality.
It's the decision that could kickstart intra-Afghan dialogue, and pave the way to ending the US occupation in Afghanistan after 20 bloody years.
On Sunday, after days of deliberations that involved thousands of Afghan delegates packing into one tent (what's COVID again), President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release hundreds of Taliban prisoners from government jails. The move opens the way to intra-Afghan dialogue under a deal that the US brokered directly with the Taliban earlier this year.
The Trump administration has touted this development as a major step towards peace, but after nearly two decades of war, the relevant players are still miles apart when it comes to laying out a common vision for the conflict-ridden country. What do they all want?
<p><strong>The Afghan government:</strong> Power brokers in Kabul have articulated some guidelines for a way forward after decades of war: In exchange for disarmament and a commitment to anti-terrorism measure, the Taliban could remain a visible force in public life and compete in elections. </p> <p>Some analysts have compared this vision to the 2016 <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38096179" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">deal</a> reached between the Colombian government and FARC rebels after years of conflict. </p> <p>Indeed, while President Ghani and other influence peddlers in Kabul support the system of electoral democracy that emerged in the wake of the 2001 US invasion, critics point to tribal divisions and endemic <a href="https://www.u4.no/publications/afghanistan-overview-of-corruption-and-anti-corruption-with-a-focus-on-development-assistance?" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">corruption </a>as reasons for widespread lack of confidence in the current political system. </p> <p><strong>The Taliban: </strong>The militant group's vision for a post-settlement Afghanistan remains murky. Ambiguous commitments about ceasing its violent activities — and offering <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/opinion/taliban-afghanistan-war-haqqani.html" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">protection for women</a>— have only engendered greater fear among the Afghan population and mistrust among the political elite. </p> <p>To date, the group has done little to show its willingness to embrace meaningful compromise. It has, in fact, intensified its violent insurgency in recent months, waging attacks that killed at least 42 government forces and 41 civilians in the week leading up to August 6. </p> <p>Crucially, while the Afghan government backs the political status quo, the Taliban wants to reimpose the <a href="https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-calls-for-islamic-emirate-in-afghanistan-drafts-a-charter-with-rules/story-uIeM27BHbUObbGgSn2h5wJ.html" rel="dofollow" target="_blank">Islamic Emirate</a> brand (enforced when they ruled the country from 1996-2001) as a system of governance — essentially, a theocratic state ruled by extreme interpretations of Islamic law. How the two sides might reconcile these disparate world-views within the framework of a power-sharing agreement remains… unclear. </p> <p><strong>The US:</strong> For the Trump administration, any political progress in Afghanistan will make it easier to follow through on its promises to reduce the number of American troops in wars in far-flung places around the world. This mission, popular among a <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/defense/510851-poll-about-three-quarters-support-bringing-troops-home-from-iraq-afghanistan" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">war-weary</a> US public, has renewed urgency now that <a href="https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">polls </a>show his Democratic opponent Joe Biden running full steam ahead. </p> <p>Presumably, that's part of the reason for the Pentagon's <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/08/politics/mark-esper-afghanistan-troop-levels/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">announcement</a> this week that the number of American troops in Afghanistan would be cut to below 5,000 by the end of November, despite the fact that the atmosphere surrounding intra-Afghan negotiations, and prospects for reconciliation, remain bleak. (There are around 8,600 American troops still in Afghanistan.)</p> <p><strong>What do the Afghan people want?</strong> Undoubtedly, the Afghan people have <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/no-peace-for-afghanistan" rel="dofollow" target="_self">borne the brunt </a>of insurgent violence, weak government, and economic stagnation over the past few decades.</p> <p>But a recent survey by the <a href="https://www.aiss.af/assets/aiss_publication/Political_Settlement_and_Post-Conflict_Order_in_Afghanistan_People%E2%80%99s_Views_(English).pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies</a> found that 68 percent of respondents prefer the current political structure, however flawed, to Taliban rule. </p> <p>Over 80 percent said they think the people should directly elect the country's leaders, while the same number of respondents also expressed support for liberalization, including greater emphasis on women's rights and freedom of expression — concepts at odds with the Taliban ethos. (Many Afghan women <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/opinion/taliban-afghanistan-war-haqqani.html" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">fear</a> that gains made towards their integration into Afghan society over the past 18 years will disappear in a flash if the Taliban joins the government.) </p> <p>For years, warlords and criminal networks have squandered foreign aid intended to stimulate businesses and jobs. In the country deemed the <a href="https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/un-afghanistan-deadliest-place-children" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">most dangerous </a>place in the world to be a child, it's no surprise that most Afghans simply want to be freed from the destructive cycle of corruption and violence that has sapped the promise of Afghanistan's economy. </p><p><strong>Is there any hope?</strong> Almost two decades after the US invasion of Afghanistan there is an opening for peace, but making real progress will rely on meeting the demands of all of these groups in a way that has so far proven disastrously elusive. </p>
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Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal
August 12, 2020
Just days after an explosion tore through the heart of Beirut, journalist and born-and-raised resident Kim Ghattas describes where she was when the blast happened - and what she actually thinks was the cause. This episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer begins airing Friday, August 14 on US public television. Check local listings.
"Go ahead, take it," President Putin says to you.
"Take what?" you ask.
"This Covid vaccine," he continues, turning a small syringe over in his hands. "It's safe. Trust me. We… tested it on my daughter."
Would you do it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that a lot of people will say yes. On Tuesday he announced that Russia has become the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine, and that mass vaccinations will begin there in October.
<p><strong>The catch is: no one knows if it really works. </strong>In order to win the vaccine race, the Gamaleya institute in Moscow never ran what scientists call a "Phase III Trial": the critical final round of testing in which medications are given to thousands of people to make sure that they actually deliver immunity without intolerable side effects. </p><p>Globally, there are just <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html" target="_blank">eight vaccines</a> at Phase III right now, and Russia says it will join them this week. But up until now the Russian vaccine has been tested on just <a href="https://www.barrons.com/articles/russia-registers-vaccine-76-people-have-tried-it-51597165886" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">76 people</a>. Among them are the Russian scientists who developed the vaccine -- they injected themselves with it and seemed pleased with the results. And one of Putin's daughters took it as well. After a day or so of fever, her dad <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/08/11/russia-coronavirus-vaccine-putin-daughter-393455" rel="dofollow" target="_blank">said</a>, she was fine. </p><p>Cutting corners to win the global vaccine race isn't without risk, so what are the pros and cons here for Putin?</p><p>Well, if the vaccine <em>is</em> effective, it would deliver a few huge wins. </p><p><strong>A PR coup.</strong> The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest global crisis since World War Two, and it won't truly end until there's a vaccine. Russian state TV has been hyping this for months, and getting there first would be a huge feather in Putin's cap: it's no accident that the vaccine was named Sputnik V, an homage to the <a href="https://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/" rel="dofollow" target="_blank">time</a> that the USSR beat the USA to put the world's first satellite in orbit. </p><p><strong>A public health victory.</strong> A successful vaccine would enable economic and social life to get back to normal in Russia faster than anywhere else. That would be a huge help for Putin, whose approval ratings have <a href="https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/05/06/putins-approval-rating-drops-to-historic-low-poll-a70199" rel="dofollow" target="_blank">touched historic lows</a> during the pandemic. </p><p><strong>Soft power in a syringe.</strong> If other countries line up to get the Russian vaccine rather than wait for the other Phase III trials around the world to finish, it would give Russia tremendous influence over economies and societies around the world. Moscow says at least 20 countries have <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiL-sOJ85PrAhX7mHIEHY9aCJwQFjACegQIAxAB&url=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.ndtv.com%252Fworld-news%252Frussia-covid-19-vaccine-russia-dubs-new-coronavirus-vaccine-sputnik-after-soviet-satellite-2277797&usg=AOvVaw12ZfWzSBs1gpsOExGIWtcX" target="_blank">already expressed</a> interest. If the key to returning to (something like) normalcy says "Made in Russia" on it, people won't forget. </p><p><strong>Lastly, vaccine is spelled M-O-N-E-Y. </strong>Russia says there's already demand for a billion doses. Whoever manufactures those billion doses will be raking in big cash. And permission to hold that lucrative rake will, as ever, come directly from Putin himself – a company this important will be controlled by people very close to the Russian president. </p><p><strong>What if the vaccine doesn't work? </strong>Cases could surge again as ineffectively-vaccinated people begin socializing and working as normal again. Negative side effects could be widespread. The logistics of delivering it at home and abroad could seize up. </p><p>If any of these things happens on a large scale, it will be hard to cover up, and Russia would take a hit in all four of the areas above, particularly if competing vaccines elsewhere in the world emerge from Phase III trials soon. </p><p>But given the upsides, Putin is probably betting that the vaccine is good enough to make any negative news of that kind easy to contain, deny, or spin.</p><p><strong>He's also waiting for an answer to his question to you: </strong>what's it gonna be — would you roll up your sleeve for Sputnik V? </p>
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Hard Numbers: UK economic meltdown, Nigerian pirate convictions, pandemic bling, foreign spy bust in Iran
August 12, 2020
20.4: The UK economy is now officially in a recession for the first time in 11 years, after British economic growth plunged by 20.4 percent quarter-on-quarter from April to June 2020. The quarterly decline — attributed to the economic crisis fueled by the coronavirus pandemic — is double that of the US and second only to Spain's in Europe.
<p><strong>3:</strong> A Nigerian court <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-piracy/nigeria-convicts-first-pirates-under-new-maritime-law-idUSKCN2581EL" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">issued</a> the country's first-ever piracy convictions to three men who pleaded guilty to hijacking a tanker in waters off Equatorial Guinea last March. Although they got off with just a fine, this is still a major step for Nigeria, where the global shipping industry has been calling for tougher law enforcement action against <a href="https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/28824/in-west-africa-s-gulf-of-guinea-piracy-is-a-growing-threat" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">rising attacks</a> by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. </p><p><strong>1.5 million:</strong> The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequality in many ways, but none quite like this. An Israeli jeweler is <a href="https://apnews.com/a88a0768f236d947dc4b356c3411106b" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">working</a> on what he claims will be the world's most expensive anti-coronavirus face mask — made of gold encrusted with diamonds (and fitted with N99 filters) for a whopping $1.5 million. </p><p><strong>5:</strong> Iran has arrested 5 government employees for allegedly spying on behalf of Israel, Germany and the UK. This comes as the Islamic Republic has recently <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/iran-convicts-citizens-spying-foreign-powers-200811092445921.html" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">sentenced</a> two of its citizens to ten years in prison for similar espionage crimes, and last month <a href="https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/voa-news-iran/iran-executes-man-convicted-spying-cia" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" target="_blank">executed</a> a defense ministry staffer for (allegedly) spying for the CIA. </p>
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