In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.
Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.
No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.
Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?
Look to its history. After a bloody and destructive 13-year fight, Haiti, then called Saint-Domingue, won independence from France in 1804. This was the first successful slave rebellion in the modern world, and that accomplishment unnerved leaders in Europe and the newly created United States, who feared slave uprisings in their own countries.
As a result, a land that had once supplied colonial master France with enough sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, cotton, and indigo dye for sale across Europe to constitute half of France's gross national product was then faced with an international economic boycott.
The resulting economic crisis forced the new nation's leaders to accept French demands for payment of some $21 billion in reparations for lost colonial property. The Haitian government had little choice but to pay, and it borrowed heavily from French, German, and American banks to finance the debt.
Fears that Haiti would default led the newly expansive United States to respond to political upheaval in 1915 by sending in Marines. This began an occupation of the country that lasted until 1934. Washington kept control of Haiti's finances until the debt was fully repaid in 1947.
During the Cold War, the United States guarded against Communist influence in Haiti, which became an even higher priority after the revolution in neighboring Cuba brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, by supporting the dictatorship of François, and then Jean-Claude, Duvalier from 1957-1986. The anti-Communist father and son killed tens of thousands of Haitians and stole hundreds of millions of dollars.
For decades, elites backed by outsiders controlled most of Haiti's productive land and stole much of the aid money sent to alleviate poverty and help the country recover from disasters.
And there are plenty of disasters to recover from, because Haiti, caught between North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, is prone to earthquakes. In 2010, a large quake killed 220,000 people and displaced 1.5 million.
The island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, is also situated in "hurricane alley," an area of warm Caribbean water that forms an ideal path for deadly hurricanes.
Haiti is far more vulnerable to natural disasters than the DR and other of its neighbors because crippling debt and political corruption have left little money for investment in the kind of physical infrastructure that can withstand those disasters or for the government to spend to rebuild.
Haitian politics is mostly a fight to control access to money entering the country and the land that produces wealth via agricultural exports. Haiti doesn't have revolutions; it has coups. Reformers who threaten vested interests become targets for deadly violence.
Not surprisingly, a number of academic studies over the years have found that "brain drain," the exodus of the nation's best and brightest to other countries in search of better opportunities, has further stunted Haiti's development.
It's the accumulation of all these problems that leaves Haiti, now home to 11 million people, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and a land in perpetual crisis. And there's little public support in other countries for the large-scale investment — and the commitment of troops needed to protect it — that Haiti would need for decades to come.
For now, Haiti's turmoil continues.
For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.
- An interview with UN Secretary-General António Guterres - GZERO ... ›
- Will politics destroy the planet? - GZERO Media ›
- Want to fix climate change? This is what it'll take. - GZERO Media ›
- The Graphic Truth: Net Zero — What are the top polluters promising ... ›
- The coming climate apartheid - GZERO Media ›
"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.
Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.
Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?
Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?
Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT
- Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)
- Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
- Brad Smith, President and Vice Chair, Microsoft
- Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme
- David Malpass, President, World Bank Group
Salvadorans protest Bukele, Bitcoin: Thousands of people took to the streets of El Salvador's capital on Wednesday, the 200th anniversary of the country's independence, to protest against President Nayib Bukele's increasingly authoritarian streak and his embrace of risky cryptocurrency. Last May, Bukele ended the Supreme Court's independence; perhaps unsurprisingly, the court then decided to lift the constitutional ban on presidential term limits — presumably so Bukele can run for reelection in 2024. Meanwhile, last week El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender, but the rollout was, to put it mildly, messy. The protesters resent Bukele's dictator vibes and warn that Bitcoin could spur inflation and financial instability. The tech-savvy president, for his part, insists that crypto will bring in more cash from remittances and foreign investment, and remains immensely popular among most Salvadorans. Still, Bukele's Bitcoin gamble could erode his support if the experiment fails.
Aukus vs China: The newly announced US-UK-Australia Asia-Pacific security partnership doesn't mention China by name, but everyone with eyes can see: it's about China. With Aukus — as this new alliance is now informally known until someone comes up with a better acronym — the Biden administration wants to do two things. First, boost Australia's naval defense capability — in particular by giving the Aussies the tech to build nuclear-powered attack submarines that can withstand Chinese anti-ship missiles. Second, work with the Aussies and the Brits to jointly develop more advanced weapons that'll be a better match for China's increasingly high-tech military. Beijing says Aukus is the latest example of Western powers stuck in "Cold War mentality," while France, which was about to sell Australia a bunch of its own conventional subs, is fuming at the Aussies backing out of the deal, and at all three Aukus partners for being kept out of the loop. However there are limits to Anglophone affection: New Zealand has already said please no Aussie nuclear subs in our waters, thanks mate.Italy mandates COVID passes for all workers: Italy will soon become the first EU country to make the bloc's COVID "Green Pass" mandatory for all workers, not just healthcare personnel. Although the goal of the digital certificate — which shows whether someone has been vaccinated, tested negative, or recently recovered from the virus — was to facilitate travel between EU member states, the unity government led by PM Mario Draghi now wants to use it to force skeptical Italians to get the jab. Italian unions have pushed back a bit, upset at the 1,000 euro ($1,175) fines for non-compliance and having to pay 15 euros for tests, but the mandate is backed by most employers and political parties. Italy's move comes amid an ongoing debate over vaccine mandates in Europe, and a week after President Joe Biden ordered vaccination or weekly COVID testing for most US workers.
Hard Numbers: Nicki Minaj spreads vax misinformation, France kills top enemy, Jakarta’s toxic air, Lebanon gets Iranian fuel
22.7 million: Trinidad-born US rapper Nicki Minaj has caused a political uproar after telling her 22.7 million Twitter followers that the COVID vaccine caused her Trinidadian cousin's friend to get swollen testicles and become impotent. The country's health minister called out Minaj, as did the White House.
6: France announced the death of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara whom Paris calls its "enemy number one" in the Sahel. France says al-Sahrawi, a former member of the Polisario Front separatist movement in Western Sahara, masterminded multiple deadly attacks in the region, including one that killed six French aid workers last year in Niger.
5.5 million: An Indonesian judge ruled that President Joko Widodo was negligent on addressing air pollution in th country's famously congested and polluted capital of Jakarta, which just last year recorded 5.5 million illnesses related to this problem. Jokowi, as he's known by most Indonesians, promised in 2019 to move the capital to a new site on the sparsely populated island of Borneo, but the pandemic stalled his plans.40: As Lebanon reels from fuel shortages, a convoy of about 40 trucks loaded with Iranian fuel entered the country from Syria on Thursday. The shipment was brokered by Hezbollah, the influential Iran-backed militant group and political party in Lebanon. By accepting the fuel, Lebanon now risks US sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
On Monday, Canada's liberal hunk of a PM heads into early elections that no one seems to have wanted... except for him.
When Justin Trudeau announced the move back on August 15, many people questioned the wisdom of holding a national election amid the economic and public health upheavals of the pandemic. "Read the room, Justin," was a common quip, with many saying the early vote was irresponsible from a public health perspective.
So, just days out from the election, how are things looking for (the other) JT, and how — and why — did we get here?
Why did Trudeau cut short his second term? It would have seemed safer for Trudeau to wait until his term ends in 2023, giving the economy time to recover, and Canadians time to settle into post-pandemic life. When asked about his unexpected announcement last month, Trudeau offered a vague answer about the ongoing COVID response and recovery: "The government and indeed Parliament needs an opportunity to get a mandate from Canadians."
But many observers say that the early vote was a ploy for Trudeau to capitalize on strong polling amid a much-improved vaccine drive in the summer, so he could rid himself of the hassles of minority governments that make it harder to get stuff done, like expanding the social safety net with initiatives like the Liberals' subsidized childcare program. (Trudeau's Liberal party currently holds 155 out of 337 seats in the House of Commons.)
But there's growing consensus that the political wunderkind may have misjudged the collective mood. COVID has been rough for many Canadians; the services industry has shed jobs, exacerbating unemployment, while businesses dependent on cross-border travel are hurting from the US-Canada land border closure.
The last thing many Canadians wanted was a costly and emotionally-draining snap election focused on personalities. The PM is now neck-and-neck in the polls with the Conservative Party's Erin O'Toole, with both polling at around 31 percent. When Trudeau announced the vote on August 15, the Liberals were in the lead with a 54 percent chance of forming a majority government. But now he might lose the race.
Who's Trudeau up against? A former officer in the Canadian air force and corporate lawyer, O'Toole entered the political fray in 2012, and has since served an eight-year stint in the House of Commons, as well as a cabinet post as veterans affairs minister.
More recently, the conservative stalwart has shown a knack for adaptability, deeming that a middle-of-the-road approach was the best way to appeal to undecided (and unmotivated) centrists whose votes could prove decisive on election day.
As a result, O'Toole has challenged views held by many in his own party on abortion, calling himself a "pro-choice leader," and recently said that he would maintain the PM's ban on assault weapons (though he previously flip-flopped on this issue during the campaign). Moreover, in a sign of his attempt to broaden his party's appeal, O'Toole dropped his Trumpian 2020 slogan — "Take Back Canada" — in favor of "We Have a Plan," an optimistic rallying cry that has shades of Elizabeth Warren.
On pandemic stimulus, meanwhile, O'Toole said he would continue to dole out financial support, but would mostly end the scheme by the end of his first year. O'Toole's self-described fiscally-responsible recovery plan contrasts with Trudeau's policy of long-term big spending to rev up the economy.
This all poses a key question: What happens when you call an election that the people simply don't want? Chiefly, you run the risk that many voters you need to close the gap in a tight race won't show up. After six years in office, Trudeau's net approval rating currently hovers at -2 percent. This race has now become less about his parliamentary majority than about his political survival.
Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:
Will the House Democrats actually be able to "tax the rich"?
The answer to that question is yes, the House Democrats this week rolled out a proposal in order to partially finance their plans to spend $3.5 trillion. The tax proposal is notable for three things. One, while it does raise taxes on corporate America, including the corporate rate (that's 26.5% from 21% today), it goes a little bit softer on them than a proposal from Senate Democrats or from the Biden administration who wanted to be much more aggressive in going after the overseas earnings of US multinational corporations.
Two, is the proposal's reliance on money from America's wealthiest citizens, including by increasing the top rate back to 39.6%, which was the rate before the Trump tax cuts and imposing a new 3% surtax on people earning over $5 million a year. Not a big constituent groups. Very unlikely you see a lot of pushback against that. In some ways, however, the House proposal was more moderate than some of the proposals we've seen from other Democrats, including on taxing capital gains at death, taxing the oil and gas industry, and the top capital gains rate, which in the House proposal only goes to 25% as opposed to the Biden proposal to go all the way to 39.6%. So, this proposal isn't going to pass exactly as proposed, but it does show a pathway for Democrats to raise a lot of money from corporate America and the wealthiest Americans.
What are the takeaways after Governor Gavin Newsom survived the California recall election?
Well, to be honest, there really aren't that many. This election was a fluke really driven by California's easy recall laws, which allow a very small number of voters to put together a petition to launch a recall, which turned out to be very expensive by the way, almost a quarter of a billion dollars was spent on this election, which Newsom ended up winning quite easily. In fact, he won by almost the exact margin he won his 2018 gubernatorial election, which just tells you more about the partisan lean of the state and the fact that he is a Democrat in a state that a Republican hasn't won statewide in over a decade than it does about any of the atmospherics surrounding his approach to COVID or people being unhappy about him having a fancy birthday dinner. One possible takeaway is reports that one of the leading Republican candidates was trying to delegitimize the results of the election by claiming fraud that wasn't there, which echoes of course, President Trump's delegitimization of the 2020 election. And unfortunately, is probably a sign of things to come for the loser in election statewide and at the federal level going forward, particularly among Republicans.