Three Stories in the Key of: Vacuums

Vacuums. Great for picking up dust, powering vintage amplifiers, or running a 27-mile long pre-war New York mail delivery system straight out of Jules Verne. But when it comes to political stability or defense of national interests, vacuums can be a challenge. Here’s a look at three spots around on the world where the void is the problem…


In Colombia, the demobilization of thousands of FARC guerrillas under the 2016 peace accords has left a power vacuum in parts of the country that narco-traffickers and other guerrilla groups have hastened to fill. Re-establishing state authority over these areas is indispensable to any serious effort at implementing the peace accords, which are already a deeply polarizing issue in the country as it heads for the second round of presidential elections in June.

In Syria, meanwhile, ISIS has lost almost all of the territory it controlled in the eastern reaches of the country, but no one has stepped in to govern. Notwithstanding its hideous and fanatical brutality, ISIS did run a real “state” replete with ministries, taxes, and even a DMV, as an extraordinary recent investigation showed. With no one around to provide basic services and security, ethnic and sectarian tensions are on the rise — until someone steps in to sustainably fill the power vacuum there isn’t a prayer of seeing stability, let alone peace, in Syria.

Lastly, a vacuum of a slightly different sort as US lawmakers advance new legislation that would substantially increase Congress’s power to review and block foreign investment in critical industries. The move doesn’t explicitly target any particular country, but the intent is clear: Senator John Cornyn sounded the alarm about China’s bid to, in his words, “weaponize investment in order to vacuum up all of our advanced technologies.”

How much material do we use to send a package? Too much. Does recycling help? Yes – but not really. Packaging material often accumulates as waste, contributing to its own "polluting weight." To solve our packaging dilemma, Finland came up with RePack: a "circular" solution for the reuse of material.

Learn more about RePack in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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In a new interview with Ian Bremmer for GZERO World, former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says that the single most important step to reopening schools in the fall is to control infection in the community. But as of now, too many communities across the United States have lost control of the Covid-19 virus. Opening schools will only become a possibility once a majority of people start practicing the "Three 'W's" ("Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance") and local and federal governments enforce stricter protective policies. The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, August 7, 2020. Check local listings.

2,500: Google has deleted around 2,500 YouTube accounts linked to a coordinated misinformation campaign about Hong Kong, Chinese regime critics and China's coronavirus response. It's been a busy week for social media platforms cracking down on fake news, after Facebook and Twitter censored a post from US President Donald Trump for containing misinformation about COVID-19, and Brazil's Supreme Court ordered Facebook to block accounts tied to allies of President Jair Bolsonaro for spreading lies about judges.

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Jim Geraghty argues in a National Review op-ed that we shouldn't blame Trump for the fact that the US has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world. But though he's right that not everything is Trump's fault, Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Scott Rosenstein take out The Red Pen to show that the evidence he cites to let Trump off the hook doesn't hold water.

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