THREE HITS IN THE KEY OF: NO, NOT THAT STORY

THREE HITS IN THE KEY OF: NO, NOT THAT STORY

Sometimes one big story or narrative in a given part of the world can divert people’s attention from other, similar things that are happening there at the same time. Here’s a quick run through a few stories that aren’t actually the stories you’ve heard most about...


The Latin American refugee crisis that’s not in Venezuela.

The economic catastrophe wrought by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has driven millions from his country, but there is a growing exodus from Nicaragua now too, as thousands flee the political and economic turmoil that began earlier this year amid protests and a brutal crackdown by President Daniel Ortega. Most of those fleeing are headed south into Nicaragua’s prosperous and stable neighbor Costa Rica. (Going north would mean entering Honduras, one of the world’s most violent countries).

In recent years, the so-called “Northern Triangle” Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, have become some of the most violent places on earth, wracked by gang violence, drug trafficking and weak governments. But the deepening crisis in Nicaragua, and growing refugee flows, could begin to test stability there and in Costa Rica as well.

The impending final bloodbath in a Middle East civil war that’s not in Syria.

The fragile fate of Syria’s Idlib province — the last remaining holdout against Bashar Al Assad’s Russian-backed war machine — has gotten much attention in recent weeks. But Yemen’s four-year-old civil war may be headed for a violent final showdown, as well. As a reminder, the war started in 2014 when the Houthis, Shiite rebels with ties to Iran, ousted a Saudi-backed government, prompting intervention by a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States with US help.

The war has already created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, claiming the lives of more than 15,000 civilians, amid human rights violations on all sides. Following the recent collapse of peace talks, the UAE says it will retake the strategic port city of Hodeidah from the Houthis. Even beyond the impact of urban warfare on the city’s 600,000 remaining residents, Hodeidah is the port of entry for 70 percent of the food and medicine that goes to Yemen. With about three-quarters of the population dependent on that foreign aid, a battle for Hodeidah could have catastrophic ripple effects throughout the war-ravaged country.

The persecuted religious minority in China that’s not Xinjiang’s Muslims

China has been in the spotlight recently for its discriminatory and repressive policies towards Muslims, and Tibet sometimes makes the news as well, but there’s another minority of religious believers that struggles to worship freely in the country. China’s 60 million Christians have for decades been forced to choose between state-approved churches and underground places of worship that the state cracks down on – sometimes with bulldozers.

In particular, China’s 10 million Catholics have until now had to navigate a system in which Beijing and the Holy See -- which cut ties in 1951 -- each appoint bishops whom the other refuses to recognize. Over the weekend, the two sides took a big step towards reconciliation with an agreement under which the Vatican will recognize several government-appointed bishops and sideline several of its own appointees. In return, China will give the Pope a say in new appointments.

The agreement sparked criticism—from Catholics who don’t want to give an atheist authoritarian government influence over spiritual matters and from Chinese Communist Party officials who object to ceding any sovereignty over internal religious affairs to the Pope.

I’ll leave you with the question my fellow Signalista Willis posed to me: Is this the Pope bowing to the reality of China’s power, or China bowing to the reality of the Pope’s power?

"I think there are certain times where you have tectonic shifts and change always happens that way."

On the latest episode of 'That Made All the Difference,' Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia, shares his thoughts on the role we all have to play in bringing our communities and the environment back to health.

For many, Paul Rusesabagina became a household name after the release of the 2004 tear-jerker film Hotel Rwanda, which was set during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Rusesabagina, who used his influence as a hotel manager to save the lives of more than 1,000 Rwandans, has again made headlines in recent weeks after he was reportedly duped into boarding a flight to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, where he was promptly arrested on terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder charges. Rusesabagina's supporters say he is innocent and that the move is retaliation against the former "hero" for his public criticism of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country with a strong hand since ending the civil war in the mid 1990s.

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One of the biggest threats to 21st century international peace is invisible. It recognizes no borders and knows no rules. It can penetrate everything from the secrets of your government to the settings of your appliances. This is, of course, the threat of cyberattacks and cyberwarfare.

During the coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks have surged, according to watchdogs. This isn't just Zoom-bombing or scams. It's also a wave of schemes, likely by national intelligence agencies, meant to steal information about the development and production of vaccines. Attacks on the World Health Organization soared five-fold early in the pandemic.

Why is the threat of cyberwarfare growing, and why isn't more being done to stop it?

Hacking is increasingly the business of nation-states. Not so long ago, hackers were mainly hooded freelancers sitting in their basements stealing credit card numbers. Now they are increasingly the employees of national intelligence services.

Why are countries investing more and more in the cyber game? For one thing, hacking is a cheap way to level the playing field with larger global rivals. For North Korea or Iran, you no longer need a powerful military in order to project power across the globe. You just need a laptop and a few good programmers. What's more, unlike missile launches or invasions, the targets can't always tell where a cyberattack has come from. Plausible deniability comes in handy, especially when attacking someone bigger than you.

Targets are getting fatter. As countries build out 5G networks, data flows will increase massively, as more than a billion more people move online over the next decade. The so-called "internet of things," the network in which everything from your watch to your (potentially self-driving) car to your refrigerator are being hooked up to the internet. (That said, huge gaps in internet access persist, as we wrote here.)

There are no rules. Conventional war has rules about whom you can and cannot attack, occupy, or imprison. They aren't always respected or enforced — but the cyber realm has very few rules, mainly because the world's major cyber powers don't want them. If you're Vladimir Putin, hacking has brought dividends that your flagging economy and mediocre military cannot. If you're the US, you're historically wary of any binding rules about the conduct of war. (If you're Gulliver, why tie yourself to the ground for the sake of Lilliput?) So, while various groups of countries have, under UN auspices, started to develop "norms" – they are not binding.

Unfortunately, it may take a catastrophe to create those rules. So far, the damage inflicted by hackers has mostly been economic. In 2017, the NotPetya virus, which targeted Ukraine, quickly spread around the globe, inflicting $10 billion worth of pain. It was, so far, the worst cyberattack in history.

But it's not hard to imagine a cyberattack on a hospital network, a power grid, or a dam that kills thousands of people and forces even more from their homes. How can those responsible be called to account? And what would it take to make future such attacks much less likely?

Will it take an event that inflicts that much human damage for governments and tech companies to sit down and hammer out cyber-rules of the road?

Malaysian political drama: Malaysia's (eternal) opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says he finally has enough votes in parliament to be appointed prime minister, seven months after the coalition that was going to support him collapsed amid an internal revolt that also forced out 95-year-old Mahathir Mohamed as head of the government. Two years ago, Mahathir — who governed Malaysia from 1980 to 2003 — shocked the country by running in the 2018 election and defeating his former party UMNO, which had dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1956. After winning, Mahathir agreed to hand over power to Anwar — a former protégé with whom he had a falling out in the late 1990s — but Mahathir's government didn't last long enough to do the swap. Will Anwar now realize his lifelong dream of becoming Malaysia's prime minister? Stay tuned for the next parliamentary session in November.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:


Why can't Europe agree on Belarus sanctions?


I think they can agree but the problem is that Cyprus has blocked. There's a veto right inside the European Union and they have blocked everything. I mean, everyone agrees, all of other Member States agrees that we should have had those sanctions in place. But the Cypriots have their own views. And then they are blackmailing, they are saying you have to sanction Turkey as well, at the same time. And most other states say there's no connection between the two. So, we do have somewhat of a constitutional crisis over foreign affairs inside the European Union. Distinctly not a good situation.

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