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What We're Watching: Chinese tennis star reappears, Bulgarian president re-elected, US Fed chief renominated

Is Peng Shuai really safe? The Women's Tennis Association has said that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's video call with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Sunday does not sufficiently address concerns about her safety and whereabouts. Peng disappeared from public life several weeks ago after accusing former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her. Over the weekend, Chinese state media published photos of her at a restaurant and a tennis tournament, and she held a half-hour call with the IOC in which she said she was fine and asked for privacy. But no one can be sure that Peng wasn't coerced into making those statements. The WTA, which has threatened to pull tournaments out of China, continues to call for a full investigation into Peng's allegations, and the story is adding fresh impetus to calls for nations around the world to boycott the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

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Protest rally against COVID-19 vaccinations on 30 August 2021 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Hristo Vladev/NurPhoto

The world’s worst COVID outbreak (for now)

Right now, only one region of the world is reporting an increase in new daily COVID cases. Here's a hint: it's one of the places where vaccines are, for the most part, easiest to get.

It's Europe. According to the World Health Organization, the region last week notched a 7 percent uptick in new daily infections, the third week in a row that infections rose there.

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What We're Watching: Iraqi COVID ward burns, the EU's Mozambique mission, Bulgaria's punk-rock leader

Iraqi COVID ward burns: Clashes broke out Monday between police and relatives of patients at the al-Hussein hospital in Nasiriyah (Iraq's fourth largest city) who were killed when a fire broke out in the COVID-19 isolation ward. At least 92 people died, and dozens were injured when a the shoddy ward, constructed a few months ago to manage the growing COVID outbreak, became ablaze. (Iraq's Health Ministry has still not confirmed the cause of the fire.) This disaster comes as the COVID crisis has severely strained the country's already-feeble healthcare system, leading to more than 1.4 million infections and at least 17,000 COVID deaths nationwide (likely a gross undercount). Monday's blaze comes months after a deadly fire at a Baghdad hospital killed at least 82 people. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has ordered the suspension and arrest of health and defense officials in Nasiriya, but it's unclear whether this move will be enough to placate furious Iraqis who are rising up after years of neglect, economic stagnation, war, and now a pandemic. Indeed, many Iraqis who have hit the streets in recent months are asking a simple question: what do we have to lose? Only 2.5 percent of the Iraqi population has received one dose of COVID vaccine.

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French politics heat up over "civil war" letter | EU & the Balkans | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

French politics heat up over "civil war" letter

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

What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?

Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.

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What We’re Watching: Duterte’s meltdown, Bulgaria blocks North Macedonia, Middle East prepares for Biden

Duterte's typhoon troubles: As the Philippines struggles with the aftermath of Typhoon Vamco, which killed almost 70 people and submerged parts of the main island of Luzon, tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte defended himself from accusations of poor disaster management by lashing out at Vice President Leni Robredo on live TV. The president, unleashing a barrage of sexist remarks at the Veep, falsely claimed that his political rival Robredo — the Philippines elects the VP separately from the president — had criticized him for being absent at the height of the storm, when Duterte was (virtually) attending a regional meeting of Southeast Asian leaders. Robredo, for her part, called the president a misogynist, and said she's not competing with him after Duterte threatened to be her "nightmare" if she ran in the next presidential election. We're watching to see if the typhoon disaster — or Duterte's meltdown about it — will make a dent in his popular support, which remains strong despite growing discontent over his handling of this latest crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

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What We’re Watching: Mali’s “imam of the people,” Chinese fishermen busted, Bulgarian PM clings to power

We need to do something about... Mali: The leaders of 5 West African countries are in Mali, negotiating a solution to the country's worsening political crisis. It's quite an impressive show of regional mediation force, but will it be enough to force President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to step down? For weeks, thousands of protestors have been saying they are fed up with rampant corruption, election fraud, a military incapable of stopping rising jihadist attacks. The key player in this crisis is Mahmoud Dicko, an immensely popular Muslim cleric who still supports the president — although his followers don't. Dicko says, for now, he would rather Keita stay in power and address the people's grievances. But outside parties like the UN and the powerful Economic Community of West African States are worried that continued unrest in Mali could further destabilize a region where jihadis are gaining a foothold, and they want Dicko to take over and restore stability fast.

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