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What We’re Watching: US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Fukushima wastewater, US stops J&J jab, big rabbit hunt

The end of "forever" in Afghanistan: The Biden administration says it'll withdraw all remaining US troops in Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that prompted Washington to invade the country in the first place. It's unclear how the withdrawal will affect American plans to steer intra-Afghan peace talks in the right direction under the terms of a peace agreement reached by the Trump administration and the Taliban in May 2020. Trump promised to pull out next month as long as the former al-Qaida hosts kept their end of the bargain by not launching deadly attacks (spoiler alert: they have not). Biden's move honors his campaign pledge to end a "forever war" that has claimed more than 2,300 American lives and cost the US Treasury almost $1 trillion since 2001. However, critics fear that a hasty departure could leave the Afghans helpless to prevent the Taliban from returning to power, rendering the entire mission not only expensive, but ultimately pointless.

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J&J vaccine review will cause hesitancy; Blinken warns China on Taiwan

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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What We’re Watching: China targets Taiwan, Palestinian election heats up, Russia-Ukraine border tensions

Chinese jets swarm Taiwan: This week, multiple Chinese warplanes penetrated Taiwan's airspace. While Beijing does this quite often to flex its muscles, this time the jets took a different route, and one even got close to the Japanese island of Yonaguni, located less than 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Taiwan. The maneuvers have been interpreted by experts as a direct warning from the Chinese to Japan not to overplay its hand. (It's worth noting that Tokyo could get dragged into a US conflict with China over Taiwan because, like Taiwan, it has a mutual defense treaty with the US.) More broadly, the flight patterns also indicate that China could surround Taiwan on three sides in an eventual invasion, cutting off the territory from US and Japanese military support. All this comes as the Biden administration has expressed serious concern (paywall) that Beijing is indeed planning to invade Taiwan in the very near term. With US-China relations getting hot, more rumblings over an invasion of Taiwan will surely turn the temperature even higher.

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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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After Fukushima, can nuclear power actually help save the planet?

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.

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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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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Olympic Bronze medalist on safety of Tokyo 2020 Games

Meet Mikako Kotani, Sports Director of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for Tokyo 2020. A two-time bronze medalist in synchronized swimming, Kotani explains to GZERO Media the importance sports and competition have had in her life and describes the inspiration the Olympics are to Japan and the world. The 2020 Games, postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, face unprecedented challenges for organizers and athletes. Kotani says they can also be an opportunity to bring the world together in her home country, and details the protocols and safety measures the Olympic Committee are enacting to protect all who participate. The series "Japan in 60 Seconds" is produced in partnership with the Consulate General of Japan.

This video is sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan.


Japan’s role in the global response to COVID-19

As part of our special "In 60 Seconds" series on Japan's domestic and international response to the pandemic, GZERO Media spoke to Dr. Satoshi Ezoe, Director of the Global Health Policy Division in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Ezoe breaks down his nation's contributions to multilateral efforts like the COVAX facility and the ACT Accelerator program and describes their impact on the developing world. He also details Japan's commitment to universal health care and how that policy and infrastructure have benefited the nation during the pandemic. "Japan in 60 Seconds" is produced in partnership with the Consulate General of Japan.

This video is sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan.

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