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How political sports boycotts (really) work

In recent days, America's pastime has become deeply embroiled in America's politics. US Major League Baseball pulled its annual All-Star Game (an annual friendly matchup of the sport's best players at every position) out of Atlanta to protest the Georgia state legislature's recent passage of restrictive new voting laws.

Just a week into baseball season, the move is a big deal in the US. But more broadly, it's the latest in a series of increasingly high-stakes sports decisions around the world that have a lot to do with politics.

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What We're Watching: India halts vaccine exports, principle vs profit in China, Nigeria's crypto fiasco

India squeezes vaccine exports as COVID crisis deepens: India has embarked on one of the world's most ambitious vaccine drives, seeking to vaccinate not only its own 1.4 billion people, but also make hundreds of millions of jabs to inoculate low-income countries under the global COVAX initiative. To date, it has sent 60 million doses to over 70 countries. But now, as India grapples with a surging COVID caseload and death rate — in part because of a new "double mutant variant" — New Delhi has placed a temporary ban on exports of the AstraZeneca jab being produced by its Serum Institute. "Domestic demand will have to take precedence," one foreign ministry official said. The move, which is expected to hinder supply chains until at least the end of April, will have massive impacts on COVAX, which is counting on India's pharma sector to get millions of doses to the neediest countries. India's ban has already frustrated supplies that were supposed to go to the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil in recent days. The Serum Institute says it aims to produce 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021, but so far, its monthly production cadence is lagging.

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The stories COVID buried

This year has been disastrous on so many levels as the COVID crisis wreaked havoc around the world. While coverage of the once-in-a-century pandemic dwarfed everything else in 2020, we have seen other huge political stories this year that will continue to shape the world for years to come.

We, your four Signal writers, each chose one big story that, to one degree or another, went under the radar as the global health crisis took centre stage. What do these tell us about the current state of our G-Zero world?

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What We’re Watching: US hits Turkey, EU stands up to Big Tech, Xinjiang’s cotton-picking forced labor

US sanctions Turkey: The US has imposed sanctions against NATO ally Turkey over its deployment of a surface-to-air missile system purchased from Russia that US officials say is incompatible with NATO technology, and finances Russia's defense industry. In response, Turkey has warned that it will "retaliate in a manner and time it sees appropriate." In recent years, Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has often tried to improve relations with Vladimir Putin's government to protest what he sees as overbearing behavior from Europe and the United States. But his combative, sometimes abrasive, personal and political style has repeatedly run the risk of isolating Turkey and exposing its economy to a lot of foreign pressure.

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What We're Watching: UK's second wave, UAE-US eye arms deal, China's plans for Tibet

UK's new COVID restrictions: In a last-ditch effort to avoid another national lockdown, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday sweeping new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country that could last up to six months, including limits on the number of people that can attend social gatherings. Warning that the country has reached "a perilous turning point," Johnson said that similar measures would soon be extended to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The PM's announcement comes as his government struggles to battle what he now admits is a second wave of the coronavirus. The UK now has the fifth highest death toll in the world and a steadily rising caseload. The new restrictions represent an about-face for the British government, which has been criticized for walking back its earlier calls for workers to return to the office. Will Johnson's move be enough to flatten the (second) curve?

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What We’re Watching: Wisconsin riots turn deadly, COVID-19 spreads in Gaza, Xinjiang (still) on lockdown

Chaos and anti-racism riots in Wisconsin: A white teenager was arrested Wednesday on murder charges a day after killing at least one of two people shot dead amid street protests over the police shooting of an unarmed Black man in the US city of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Also on Wednesday, the NBA postponed several playoff basketball games after players for the Milwaukee Bucks, Wisconsin's home team, went on strike to protest racial injustice. Although the exact details are still unclear, the two killings occurred after a group of armed civilians — which police described as vigilante militia groups — clashed with protesters once police had cleared the area to enforce a curfew. The protests were sparked by the case of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, who has been left paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by a white police officer on Sunday. We're watching to see if the protests and riots spread to other parts of the country as was the case back in June, when the killing of George Floyd (also a Black man) by a white police officer in Minneapolis ushered in a wave of mass rallies calling for a national reckoning on racial justice and police brutality, including proposals to reform the police itself in many US cities (and around the world, too). The unrest in Kenosha also takes place as the US presidential election campaign ramps up — President Trump will likely push his tough law-and-order approach to dealing with violent protesters to draw a contrast with his opponent Joe Biden, whom Trump wants to portray as soft on crime.

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