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Podcast: How human history is shaped by disaster, according to Niall Ferguson

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Olympic-sized stakes for Japan’s prime minister

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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Niall Ferguson: Blame bureaucrats, not leaders, for mismanaging disasters

When a government fails on disaster response, Stanford University historian Niall Ferguson says we often point the finger at the wrong person: the president — even if he's Donald Trump — instead of the mid-level bureaucrats who're actually responsible for most decisions. "When people are inclined to blame the person at the top, on closer inspection the point of failure is not there," Ferguson tells Ian Bremmer in the upcoming episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

Should government force businesses to require vaccine passes?

"Bonjour," you say, "I'd like a pain au chocolat and – hmm, what are these over here – yes two of these."

"Ahem!" says the Parisian woman behind the counter, arching her brows. "Do you have proof of vaccination? May I see your EU Green pass? If not, au revoir!"

Oui, those are the rules now. French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that starting in August, people over the age of 12 will need proof of vaccination (or prior infection or negative COVID test) in order to enter restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters, theme parks, or long distance trains. Businesses that fail to enforce the measure will be subject to fines.

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The Graphic Truth: Where is COVID raging right now?

The COVID delta variant — which first surfaced in India earlier this year — is spreading rampantly throughout every continent, and is now the most dominant strain globally. But low- and middle-income countries, particularly in regions where vaccines have been scarce, are bearing the brunt of the fallout from the more contagious strain. We take a look at the 10 countries now recording the highest number of daily COVID deaths (per 1 million people), and their corresponding vaccination rates.

Merkel's White House visit will have symbolism and substance

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

Why is the United Kingdom opening up and what's happening in the rest of Europe?

Well, I mean, my personal view is that there's an element of complacency in Europe and elsewhere. The Delta variant is spreading rather fast. We'll see an increase in infections in a number of countries. Remains to be seen how this will be handled.

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What We’re Watching: Global scorcher, Indonesia’s COVID surge, Lebanon keeps imploding

Global heat wave: In much of the world, the past few days have been an absolute scorcher. Temperatures in the normally damp, temperate US Pacific Northwest soared to records of 115 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Further north in Canada's British Columbia, the mercury climbed to 121, causing dozens of deaths. In remote reaches of Siberia, satellites recorded a mark of 117 degrees. Yes, you read that right: 117 degrees in Siberia. Typically toastier parts of the world have suffocated under unusual heat too: temperatures broke 120 in Southern Iraq this week, just as the region is struggling with widespread power outages. Experts say that although massive heatwaves are perfectly natural, climate change makes them more likely to occur and more intense when they do. In other words: the drastic effects of climate change aren't off in the future somewhere; they are here, right now. Will this hot spell light a fresh fire under efforts to tackle climate change ahead of the next UN climate change summit in Glasgow this fall? We're sweating out that answer along with the rest of you.

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The Graphic Truth: South America's COVID catastrophe

South America has emerged as the world's hardest-hit region by the pandemic, suffering about one-third of all global COVID deaths despite accounting for less than 6 percent of its population. A slow vaccine rollout in some larger countries such as Brazil is part of the problem, though as a whole the region is still inoculating people faster than Asia, where the mortality rates are much lower. The situation in South America is so dire that the World Health Organization recently called for wealthy nations to prioritize donating vaccines to South American countries, rather than to the global COVAX facility. We take a look at global COVID death rates per 1 million people and vaccination levels.

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