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What We're Watching: India has the world's fastest growing epidemic, clashes in Darfur, US election calendar

COVID-19 pummels India: India, home to 1.3 billion people, passed a grim milestone recently as the country with the fastest growing epidemic in the world, according to Bloomberg's COVID tracker. Reporting over 1.43 million cases on Monday, a 20 percent week-on-week increase, it now trails only the US and Brazil in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Indeed, several factors have complicated India's efforts to contain the virus. Workers who toil in the country's robust informal sector do not have the luxury of working from home. Meanwhile, social distancing and hygienic upkeep are all but impossible for millions of people living in crowded slums. On Monday, India recorded one of its highest daily caseloads, with almost 50,000 reported infections, likely a gross undercount considering that the country still has one of the lowest testing rates in the world. (India is testing around 12 people per 1,000, compared to 153 in the US, 130 in the UK, and 184 in Russia.)

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Dam it: Fighting over Nile water

Two weeks ago, Ethiopia started filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the upper Nile river, a $4.6 billion hydroelectric project that aims to bring electricity to tens of millions of energy-starved Ethiopians. Egypt and Sudan cried foul, warning that doing so too quickly will leave their farmers without enough water to irrigate crops. The main reservoir was filled in just a few days, a speed that Addis Ababa blamed on seasonal rains.

But this trilateral dispute is about more than just water — and even the US and China are getting involved. Why is the this dam such a big deal, and what happens next?

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What We're Watching: Despot faces justice, Saudi king ails, Greeks vs Turks

Day of reckoning for a dictator: Omar al-Bashir, once Sudan's strongman, is now living the nightmare. Like a Shakespearean king who has long known he'll pay the price of all usurpers, Bashir went on trial on Tuesday, along with alleged accomplices, for his role in the 1989 military coup that toppled an elected government and brought him to power. His 30-year reign was first jeopardized in 2018 by large protests against austerity measures imposed on his people. When a military crackdown only made the crowds larger, the army agreed to oust him in April 2019. If convicted, Bashir could be executed, though Sudan's new government — a council composed of both civilian and military officials — has promised that he'll also face genocide charges at the International Criminal Court over his role in the still-unresolved Darfur conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands since 2003. This trial marks the first time in the modern history of the Arab world that a leader has faced justice for a coup that brought him to power. The trial has been adjourned until August 11.

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What We’re Watching: Sudan softens laws, Duda wins by a whisker in Poland, protests erupt in Russia's Far East

Sudan legalizes booze (for some): Three decades after Sudan's strongman president Omar al-Bashir introduced draconian measures mandating the death penalty for those who "abandon" Islam, the country's new transitional government has introduced sweeping reforms to its criminal law. The changes allow non-Muslim Sudanese to consume alcohol and bans female genital mutilation. Sudan's transitional government, a joint civilian-military body which took office in August 2019 after popular protests pushed al-Bashir out of power, says that the reforms aim to counter the long-running persecution of black and Christian communities. But is there another motive at play? As Sudan's economy teeters on the brink of collapse, its government wants to be removed from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism List, which would open it up to international investment. The US says it's open to this, but only if it sees meaningful progress on human rights and democracy — and efforts to counter financing of terrorist regimes in the region. Sudan's nascent transitional government might be hoping that these changes help accelerate its removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, which currently makes it ineligible for financing from the IMF and World Bank.

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What We're Watching: French anti-racism protests, Sudan-Ethiopia border dispute, Pentagon checks Trump

French protests over racial injustice: The George Floyd protests in the United States have sparked solidarity demonstrations around the world, with people flocking to US embassies in Berlin, London and elsewhere to express their outrage. But they have also inspired other countries to reexamine racial justice within their own societies. In France, where street demonstrations are practically a national pastime, thousands of people have gathered in support of the family of Adama Traoré, a 24-year old black man who died in police custody back in 2016. At least 20,000 Parisians demonstrated Wednesday, despite coronavirus bans on public gatherings. Protesters adopted similar language to the Floyd protests, demanding accountability for the officers who violently pinned down Traoré during a dispute over an identity check, leading to his death. Renewed focus on this case, which has become a potent symbol of police brutality in France, comes as coronavirus lockdowns have recently stoked tensions between the police and the mostly-minority residents of Paris' banlieues (low-income suburbs).

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