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What We’re Watching: Australian women demand change, Mexico’s immigration crackdown, US vs ISIS in Mozambique

Australian women are fed up: Australia's conservative government is facing intense scrutiny after tens of thousands of women marched across the country earlier this week to protest sexual abuse and harassment, which they say is rife — including within the "old boys' club" of politicians in Canberra. The protests follow a spate of recent rape allegations made by former staffers against powerful Canberra insiders, including the sitting Attorney General Christian Porter. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for siding with Porter, who vehemently denies the decades-old rape allegations, and for initially refusing to back a thorough investigation. The country's next federal election isn't until next year (though it could come sooner) but the opposition Labour Party has already benefited from the outrage at Morrison's Liberal party, and is pulling ahead in the polls.

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What We’re Watching: Italy invests in women, Libya’s unity government, Quad vs China

Closing Italy's gender gap: Mario Draghi, Italy's new prime minister, says that increasing female employment will be a priority as Rome spends the nearly $250 billion in COVID relief funds from Brussels. Barely over 50 percent of Italian women are employed, a rate that lags the EU average by nearly 20 points, and female representation at the highest levels of government has traditionally been weak. Early in the pandemic the government came under fire for forming an all-male coronavirus task force, despite the fact that women make up a majority of healthcare professionals, and women currently hold only 8 out of 23 positions in Draghi's own cabinet. Over the past decade, new laws have pushed large Italian corporations to make major strides in female representation on their boards, but small businesses have lagged — as has the government, where even in professions where women prevail, they rarely reach the top ranks, according to the FT (paywall). As 2021 brings us closer to the end of a pandemic in which women have disproportionately suffered the economic and social fallout, will gender inequality figures be the focus of other countries' rebuilding plans too?

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Women’s movements to watch right now

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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EU & US: democracy frames tech approaches; Australia & Facebook flipflop

In a world where data is more valuable than oil and cyberattacks are rapidly emerging as modern warfare, our new series Cyber in 60 Seconds explores what it all means for you—from data privacy to national security. Hosted by Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian, this weekly video series will bring you the latest news on big tech, privacy protection and emerging trends in cyberspace.
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What We’re Watching: Facebook refriends Australia, Biden on Afghan fence, Philippine labor for COVID jabs

Facebook "refriends" Australia: Last week, Facebook abruptly blocked news from appearing on Australian users' feeds after Canberra proposed a law requiring Big Tech companies pay news outlets for sharing their content. Facebook came under fire globally for banning news sharing in Australia, including crucial public health announcements on COVID. Now, five days later, Facebook has reversed course to suddenly lift the news ban. "Facebook has re-friended Australia," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said after speaking with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So, what changed? The two sides say they have reached a compromise, though some details remain murky. The Australian government will make several amendments to the Big Tech bill — including one that will allow Facebook to circumvent the new code and avoid hefty fines — if the social media platform shows a "significant contribution" to Australia's local journalism scene. In theory, this would require Facebook to prove it has cut enough deals with Aussie media companies to pay them for content — but what constitutes "enough" remains unclear. Frydenberg said Australia has been a "proxy battle" for the rest of the globe on Big Tech regulation. Indeed, Europe and the US have been fastidiously taking notes.

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What We're Watching: China charges Aussie journo, Palestinian election talks, WHO debunks COVID myths

Australian journalist charged in China: Australian journalist Cheng Lei was detained last August in China for allegedly passing state secrets to foreign actors. Now, the reporter — who worked for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN when she was arrested — has been formally charged with a national security crime, though Beijing has unsurprisingly remained mum on the details. Her family (including two young children in Melbourne) say that Lei is innocent, while the Australian government has pleaded with Beijing to ensure due process. But Canberra's ability to lobby for Lei's release is surely hampered by its increasingly fraught relations with Beijing: Australia has criticized Beijing's meddling in Australia's internal government affairs, its spying activities, and called for a probe into China's alleged COVID coverup — prompting China to hit back with a series of devastating tariffs on Australian goods. The Chinese government has also targeted Australian journalists, and the last two Aussie reporters in mainland China recently fled at Canberra's urging. For now, Lei remains behind bars. Is the Australian government powerless to respond?

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What We're Watching: Australia-China row escalates, COVAX falling behind, Mexico's crackdown on "foreign agents"

Australia takes China to the WTO: Amid a deepening diplomatic and trade dispute with China, Australia has upped the ante by taking its case to the World Trade Organization to probe what it calls China's "discriminatory [trade] actions." The complaint relates to Beijing's decision to slap an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley, which has been pummeling Australian growers and producers. (China accuses Australia of "dumping" barley at a discounted rate; Australia says that's nonsense.) Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sparred with Beijing over a range of issues, such as human rights, national security, and telecommunications. But what irked the Chinese the most was when Australia led the charge in calling for a global investigation into China's handling of the pandemic earlier this year, which prompted Beijing to slap tariffs on a host of Australian goods including wine, beef, barley, and coal that threaten about $20 billion worth of Australian exports. While the WTO filing is mostly symbolic, and the dispute could take years to adjudicate, the move is a significant escalation — and a risky one for Australia, which relies on China for 30 percent of its annual exports.

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