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Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Shinzo Abe — With scandals back home and an approval rating of 26.7 percent, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe needed a boost from his Mar-a-Lago meeting with President Trump. He returns to Tokyo with no waiver on US steel tariffs, no US steps back toward the Transpacific Partnership, and no guarantees Trump will remember Japan’s interests if/when he sits down with Kim Jong-un. Can Abe keep his job through a long hot summer and survive his party’s leadership election in September?


Turkey’s elections — Why call for elections on June 24 when you could wait until November 2019? Because you want to catch the opposition napping, and because you expect your leadership will look much better in two monthsthan it will next year. Turkey’s economy is headed in the wrong direction. Its adventure in Syria has reached the limits of the military’s capabilities. And there’s reason for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fear that familiarity with his leadership will only further polarize his country. We’ll watch to see how hard he must work to win.

The Middle East’s Culture Wars — Last month, an Iranian woman was sentenced to two years in prison for becoming the latest to remove her headscarf in public. This week, the head of the department of Islamic guidance in the Iranian city of Mashhad was arrested after video appeared that showed men and women dancing together at a local shopping center. Meanwhile, Saudi filmgoers (!) ate popcorn and enjoyed screenings of the popular film Black Panther as Saudi cinemas reopened for the first time since 1979. That’s the year Saudi society became much more conservative in response to the Islamic revolution in rival Iran.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Macron’s understanding of Trump — Following comments from French President Macron that he had convinced President Trump to keep US troops in Syria, the White House quickly reiterated its goal to withdraw troops… because Trump loves it when other people take credit for his decisions. The two men will have a chance to discuss their differences during a very interesting meeting next week.

The WhatsApp call to prayer — In response to complaints about noise pollution, authorities in Ghana are calling on Muslims to broadcast the call to prayer via WhatsApp instead of loudspeakers. I’m not Muslim, a technophobe, or a fan of cacophonous racket. But it’s a call to prayer. Maybe other sources of sound could move to quiet mode.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

Ten years ago this week, a powerful earthquake off the coast of eastern Japan triggered a tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulting in the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. A decade and dozens of decommissioned reactors later, nuclear energy still supplies about 10 percent of global electricity, but its future remains uncertain amid post-Fukushima safety concerns.

As more countries pledge to curb emissions to mitigate climate change, nuclear could serve as a clean(ish) and reliable source of energy. But investing more in nuclear comes with tradeoffs.

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This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the czar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week, life looking better every day in the United States, coronavirus land. But I thought I'd talk about, this week, all of this cancel culture that everyone's talking about right now. If you're on the wrong political side, your opponents are trying to shut you down and you take massive umbrage. I see this everywhere, and it's starting to annoy.

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"Apocalyptic" protests in Senegal: At least five people have been killed in clashes with police as protests over poverty, unemployment, and the jailing of a popular politician rock the West African nation of Senegal. Ousmane Sonko, who heads the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) and is considered the most viable challenger to current president Mackie Sall, was accused of rape in February and arrested last week. Sonko says the charges are a politically motivated attempt to remove him from politics before the 2024 presidential election. His supporters immediately hit the streets, voicing a range of grievances including joblessness and poverty. Though youth unemployment has fallen over the past decade, it still exceeds eight percent and close to two-thirds of the country's 16 million people are under the age of 25. As Sonko supporters pledge to continue protests this week, Senegal's head of conflict resolution says the country is "on the verge of apocalypse."

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Quick Take