Then and Now: Migrants in Europe, Macron in Trouble, Venezuela in Chaos

3 months ago: A new EU plan for refugees – Back in July, we wrote about the EU's attempt to find a bloc-wide solution to the surge in migrants arriving to that region, mostly by sea. France's President Emmanuel Macron presented a vague plan – a "solidarity mechanism" – to resettle those arrivals across EU countries. It was backed by only 14 of the EU's 28 member states, as many countries opposed absorbing the 92,000 migrants and refugees that have arrived in Europe this year. The main dissent came from Italy's firebrand right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose country has borne the brunt of boat arrivals. But although Salvini lost his post in August, not much has changed. Germany, which is now also leading negotiations, has pledged to accept as many as 25 percent of all rescued refugees, but consensus on a bloc-wide policy for distributing and supporting those who arrive by land and sea remains at an impasse. The eurozone's migration policy will soon fall under a new EU office dedicated to "protecting our European way of life." Considering the hard-liner phrasing, it's hard to imagine a migration-friendly bloc-wide policy taking hold anytime soon.


6 months ago: Can Macron turn things around? – Six months ago, we pondered what France's President Emmanuel Macron might do to quell months of increasingly violent protests by the anti-government Yellow Vest movement. With his popularity rating hovering around 21 percent, Macron announced key reforms: he swiftly scrapped the fuel tax that had initially sparked the uprising, cut taxes for the middle-class, and directed $11 billion to social benefits, blowing up France's budget deficit. He also embarked on a months-long "listening tour," hoping to challenge the view that he was disconnected from average people's plights. And it worked: the protests fizzled and his approval rating soared by almost 20 points. Macron, a torchbearer for global progressivism, has managed to soften his image and return from the political dead – for now. Whether he can keep the calm for another two years until he's up for re-election remains to be seen.

9 months ago: The endgame in Venezuela? – As we wrote in January, Venezuela's politics were in disarray when a mounting wave of street protests, fueled by the charismatic opposition leader Juan Guaido, dealt the toughest test to President Nicolas Maduro since he took power in 2013. Mired in one of the largest peacetime economic collapses in modern history, Maduro's regime seemed to be on the ropes. But Guaido's attempt to overthrow the socialist leader through mass protests and a failed coup has come up short. How has Maduro managed to stay afloat? For one thing, the military brass – which profits handsomely from the regime's black markets and drug trafficking – has stuck with him, despite (and perhaps because of) tightening US sanctions. Meanwhile, the once massive protest movement behind Guaido has flamed out with little to show for their sacrifices. The approval rating for Guaido, who is still recognized as interim president by most of the world's democracies, has plummeted, providing an opening for Maduro to go on the offensive: he recently signed a "peace deal" with opposition parties other than Guaido's, splitting the enfeebled opposition. As the country's economy teeters on the brink of collapse, one thing is clear: Venezuela's political system is way stronger than many outsiders anticipated.

The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The world's climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach "net zero" emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year.

While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That's why last week we announced an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies.

Read more on the Official Microsoft Blog.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.