The Impossibility of Vacation: Signal on the Beach

The Impossibility of Vacation: Signal on the Beach

As you can see, your average Signalista has a tough time unplugging from the world of global politics, even on vacation. Even on the beach. Here’s a little window into what it’s like… a prose poem by yours truly and Willis Sparks.


 

You’re on the beach. The sun blazes in a cloudless sky. Seagulls glide silently overhead. The soothing rush of the waves lulls you into a moment’s peace as you gaze at the water.. The level of the water. How much will it rise because of global warming in the coming decades. Three meters? Four? The fragmenting of the Paris Accords will definitely make it worse.

Well, in the long run we’re all dead anyway. Wasn’t that Keynes? For now this will be a perfect day. August is the best…. A lot of world leaders probably hate August. The 1991 Soviet coup against Gorbachev happened in August. So did the ruble crisis seven years later, a national humiliation that helped lay the groundwork for a strongman like Putin to take charge.  Nixon resigned in August 1974. I wonder what Robert Mueller is doing today. He’s probably wearing a tie..

The sky! That pristine blue dome. Above that blue are 1,700 satellites, used for navigation, military applications, and communications. The Chinese and Russians have developed technologies to shoot them down. President Trump is mulling a new Space Force to deal with it, though the Pentagon isn’t on board yet...

Good thing this beach isn’t so crowded. Bondi beach in Australia is crowded. Too crowded. That country’s population surge (it’ll reach 25m people three decades earlier than expected) is straining cities, clogging up beach access, and fomenting a backlash against immigration that could really roil politics there…

Pebble beach or sand beach? The age old question. China’s leaders are at the beach too. Every August, they spend two weeks privately plotting strategy at a beach resort called Beidaihe. It looks nice in the photos. Sand, it looks like. Wonder what they’re talking about today…. A face-saving compromise with Trump? How to keep North Korea on track? It’s hot. Maybe a dip in the water would be nice…

What beautiful water… What the… is that a garbage bag? That could kill a seagull! There’s a four-in-five chance that this bag  is from Asia, you know. That rapidly growing Asian middle class is buying more stuff and throwing out more trash than ever. The logistical and political hurdles to dealing with that problem are … what’s that smell? Is that… those kids are smoking weed! Are they vaping or is it a joint? What was that report about how Lebanon could bring in an extra $500m in export revenues if it legalized cannabis…

It really is hot out here. I’m thirsty. Water is important. Hope India never tries to use its upstream control of so much of Pakistan’s water supplies for political purposes. Kaboom. Wonder what’s happening in Egypt’s dispute with Sudan and Ethiopia over Nile water resources. Maybe it’s time for lunch. . .

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Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

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Dr Anthony Fauci says the US is again "going in the wrong direction" as COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across America. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations — an apt indicator of serious illness from COVID — have spiked in 45 out of 50 states as a result of the contagious delta variant and rejection of vaccines, which are leading many US states to now have a vaccine surplus. We take a look at the 10 states where hospitalization rates have increased the most in recent weeks, and their corresponding vaccination rates — and unused vaccine rates.

Iraqi PM's face-to-face with Biden: Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's prime minister, met with President Biden at the White House Monday to discuss the future of US troops in Iraq. The US still has about 2,500 troops stationed in Iraq to engage in "counterterrorism" operations and train Iraqi forces. In an interview published this week, al-Kadhimi called for the withdrawal of all US combat troops, because, he said, Iraqi forces have proven capable of fighting ISIS militants on their own. (Just last week, some 30 Iraqis were killed when ISIS militants attacked a busy Baghdad market.) Al-Kadhimi still wants non-combat US troops to stay on in a training capacity. He became PM in 2020 as a consensus candidate after nationwide protests over corruption and joblessness forced the resignation of the unpopular previous government. At least 500 protesters were killed during a crackdown by Iraqi security forces, fueling demands for fresh elections, which are set to take place this October. The green PM has a tough job: he has to juggle relations with the Biden administration, which just pledged $155 million in aid to Iraq, and ties with Tehran, an influential player in Iraqi politics. (Iraq relies on Iran for energy imports, and Iran-backed militias inside Iraq are a force to be reckoned with.) Local sentiment has soured on the US presence as Iraqis resent being caught in the middle of US-Iran fights inside Iraqi territory.

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7,100: As a third COVID wave ravages Myanmar, the death toll has now risen above 7,100, a gross undercount because that total includes only those who died in hospitals. Myanmar, which has one of the weakest healthcare systems in Asia, is also dealing with a vaccine hesitancy problem: people are rejecting shots because they see vaccination as validation of the military, which overthrew the democratically elected government earlier this year.

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Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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"We've been dealing with pandemics from the earliest recorded history. Thucydides writes about a pandemic in the history of the Peloponnesian War. So the last thing 2020 was, was unprecedented," Stanford historian Niall Ferguson told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. Ferguson, whose new book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," believes that the world should have been better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic based on the numerous health crises of the 20th century, from the 1918 Spanish flu to influenza and HIV/AIDS. He provides perspective on how the COVID crisis stacks up compared to other pandemics throughout history.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

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