Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.
Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.
March 01, 2021
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.
Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).
His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.
<p><strong>Anti-establishment fervor isn't disappearing. </strong>The recent election demonstrates that Salvadorians are buying what Bukele is selling even if he doesn't always deliver on his promises. </p> <p>In 2019, Bukele came to power <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/has-el-salvador-solved-its-crime-problem" target="_self">pledging</a> to root out corruption, break the monopoly of the two parties that have run the country since the end of the civil war in 1992, and rid the country of violent gangs (El Salvador has one of the world's <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/central-america/el-salvador/64-el-salvadors-politics-perpetual-violence" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">highest crime rates</a>). Despite a dip early in the pandemic, crime has risen at various stages since — though Bukele has harshly <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/has-el-salvador-solved-its-crime-problem" target="_self">cracked down</a> on gang violence. Meanwhile, investigations <a href="https://www.elfaro.net/en/202009/el_salvador/24796/Series-of-Corruption-Allegations-Stains-El-Salvador%E2%80%99s-Promise-%E2%80%94-What-Political-Impact-Will-It-Have.htm" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reveal</a> that Bukele's administration has been mired in its own corruption scandals. Still, a majority of Salvadorians (roughly 90 percent) see Bukele as preferable to a corrupt political establishment that has long lined its own pockets while <a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/elsalvador/overview#:~:text=The%20country%20had%20recently%20registered,to%2029%20percent%20in%202017." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">poverty</a> plagues around 30 percent of the population. People simply want change. </p> <p><strong>And this trend isn't unique to El Salvador either.</strong> In nearby Mexico, populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, also has <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/gzero-world-clips/why-mexicos-amlo-is-still-so-popular-despite-rampant-violence" target="_self">failed to make good </a>on some reform pledges that brought him to power in 2018. Still, <a href="https://www.as-coa.org/articles/approval-tracker-mexicos-president-amlo" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">polls</a> show that Mexicans are overwhelmingly rooting for AMLO — a rugged self-described "man of the people" — in upcoming midterm elections, over a self-enriching political class that they feel has left them behind.</p> <p>Like in Mexico, there are concerns about El Salvador's authoritarian drift. Last year, Bukele <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/02/10/804407503/troops-occupy-el-salvadors-legislature-to-back-president-s-crime-package" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">sent troops</a> into the parliament to demand the legislative body approve his security package. "Bukele's style of governing is bullying," said <a href="https://www.americasquarterly.org/article/behind-nayib-bukeles-shocking-turn/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Carlos Dada</a>, founder of the newsite El Faro.</p> <p>And now that Bukele has a supermajority, analysts warn that he can go even further, claiming a mandate to pack the Supreme Court, reconfigure the attorney general's office, and could even push for a new constitution, scrapping current provisions that would cap his presidency at one-term (consecutive terms are banned). Critics are <a href="https://www.americasquarterly.org/article/behind-nayib-bukeles-shocking-turn/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">worried </a>that in placing his allies in control of all levers of government, Bukele can now effectively undermine all judicial and legislative independence. </p> <p><strong>Why does this matter beyond El Salvador? </strong>Political instability in El Salvador breeds regional insecurity and more migration.</p> <p>People from the so-called "Northern Triangle'' of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have for years constituted the largest share of migrants stopped at the southwestern US border. If an increasingly-authoritarian Bukele is unable to make good on his promises and improve Salvadorians' lives — New Ideas' success is so far rooted in Bukele's own self-styled image rather than a fixed political ideology — this could result in thousands fleeing in search of a better life in the United States, just as President Biden is trying to diplomatically tweak US foreign policy towards Latin America. The Biden administration recently <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-centralamerica/biden-administration-suspends-trump-asylum-deals-with-el-salvador-guatemala-honduras-idUSKBN2A702Q" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">axed</a> the Trump administration's third country resettlement program (also known as the Remain in Mexico<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/12/us-remain-mexico-program-harming-children" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> program</a>), while still towing a <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-mexico/border-closed-to-irregular-migration-blinken-says-in-mexico-meeting-idUSKBN2AQ245" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">tough line </a>on what it calls "irregular migration." This complicates things for Biden who needs to work with the Salvadorians to manage the immigration issue, but who also <a href="https://elfaro.net/en/202101/internacionales/25184/%E2%80%9CA-Leader-Unready-to-Go-after-Corruption-Won" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">can't be seen</a> to be playing nice with norm-breaking Bukele after putting human rights and democracy at the heart of US foreign policy. </p> <p>For Mexico, meanwhile, the stakes are also extremely high. The spillover effects of drug trafficking and gang violence in El Salvador create insecurity and havoc in Mexico (and <a href="https://www.npr.org/2011/06/01/136829224/el-salvador-fears-ties-between-cartels-street-gangs" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">vice versa</a>). This dynamic intensified under the Trump administration's <a href="https://apnews.com/article/aclu-doj-zero-tolerance-policy-failure-b8e6e0a189f5752697335f51d57b1628" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">zero tolerance policy, </a>when Mexico City experienced a surge in asylum applications from El Salvador. (In January 2019 alone, over 700 Salvadorians requested and obtained asylum in Mexico, not wanting to risk being rejected at the US border and being sent back to their home country.)</p> <p><strong>Looking ahead. </strong>The very online Bukele represents a new brand of politician sweeping parts of Latin America — and the globe. But in the year 2021, what happens in El Salvador very much does <em>not</em> stay in El Salvador. Mexico, the United States, and many others, are watching.</p>
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March 02, 2021
Now that millions of high-priority Americans have been vaccinated, many people in low-risk groups are starting to ask the same question: when's my turn? Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, has an answer, but probably not the one they're hoping for: "It probably won't be until May or June before we can at least start to get the normal non-prioritized person vaccinated." On GZERO World, Dr. Fauci also addresses another burning question: why aren't schools reopening faster? And while Dr. Fauci acknowledges that reopening schools must be a top priority, he has no quick fixes there, either. In fact, that's kind of a theme of the interview.
Watch the GZERO World episode: Dr. Fauci's Pandemic Prognosis
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
I thought I would talk today, I haven't spoken much about former President Trump since he's no longer president and I intend to continue that practice. But given this weekend and the big speech at CPAC and the fact that in the straw poll, Trump won and won by a long margin. I mean, DeSantis came in number two, but he's the Governor of Florida, CPAC was in Orlando, so that's a home court bias. In reality, it's Trump's party. And I think given all of that, it's worth spending a little bit of time reflecting on what that means, how I think about these things.
<p>Because if he runs again and this is a long ways away, thank God, because I'm not ready for election coverage, but it's pretty clear that right now he would be the ex-ante favorite and probably get the nomination easily. And that means that he could easily become president yet again. It reminds me of Bolsonaro in Brazil. I mean, somewhat it's almost astonishing to believe that Bolsonaro was elected president to begin with, given who he is, what he is, what he represents, and yet elections coming up late next year, he could easily win again. He's in the low forties right now, approval in Brazil, that being the case, this is a guy that could become president again. So, you have to take yourself out of how you feel about these people and recognize what they represent in terms of political influence and power. And I say that because when I think back on the coverage that I did for four years of the United States during Trump's presidency, I have to admit, I found the Trump presidency emotionally exhausting, because almost everyone was outraged all the time. I mean, the volume... It's like <em>Spinal Tap</em>, the volume's always up to 11. Every tweet, every video, every news program with how much they love this guy or how much they can't stand this guy, incredibly divisive and that made it extremely challenging to be analytically balanced and fair. Especially, because I personally find Trump and have always found Trump since he first started flirting with the idea of running for office, completely unfit for public service for lots of reasons, right?</p><p>I mean the orientation towards authoritarianism, the personal corruption, the incompetence, the extraordinary narcissism and all of those things made me feel he was completely unfit. And to have that feeling, and that's an emotional response to someone who is president of the United States, and as a political scientist, the job is, if you're doing it right, is to be a referee, it's to call balls and strikes, it's not to be on one team or the other. That's actually extremely difficult to do consistently when you know that you have, if you're being honest with yourself, an emotional feeling. And by the way, being a referee doesn't mean bothsidesism, it doesn't mean 50-50, it means calling balls and strikes. Some people get walks, some people strike out, you're trying to be objective.</p><p>So, I mean, that doesn't mean that suddenly you give people that represent QAnon an equivalent platform to those that represent science and truth. No, QAnon is ludicrous and stupid, and they should be dispensed with as such. Flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, Obama birtherism, which remember, is how Trump kind of got his start in terms of presidential campaigning, all equally bullshit, none of them deserve the time of day. What it means is to take the emotions out of it. It is to try to call balls and strikes for Trump just as you would for someone that you don't have that emotional agita about. And it's admittedly much harder when everyone is screaming all the time. And I would say that there were a few lessons that I take away from that.</p><p>The first is to consistently recognize the limitations of presidential power. In other words, just because something is being tweeted, doesn't mean it's becoming policy. And understanding what is doable and what is not doable. It's also the whole, not a coup. I mean, if the military is not involved, a professional military in the United States, that consistently reports to the people, is independent from the executive, from the Joint Chiefs, to all of the former Secretaries of Defense, up to the rank and file in the military, the National Guard, you name it, all of them are completely separate from Trump. And that reality of patriotic service that continues in the United States, hasn't eroded in the United States. Very important to recognize that when you see lots of shiny objects that are being thrown around by either the former president or by the media that is covering.</p><p>Secondly, a recognition that the administration is broad, it is not just Trump himself. And therefore, assessing what the administration as a whole is doing their policies, their efforts, how aligned they are with previous Republican policies, how aligned they are not. Draining the swamp was not something that was being done, but appointing lots of conservative judges absolutely is. I mean, all of these people that hate Trump that say that Trump completely subverted the Republican party, well, actually a lot of his policies were aligned with the Republican party. Why? Well, because it wasn't Trump that was driving them, it was the administration that was driving them, or it was the Republicans in the legislature that was driving them. That's important too.</p><p>Also, the need to recognize when they do something that is successful. Even if you know that people that follow you are going to come after you for saying that or be disappointed. So, like the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, you may not like the execution, but the actual deal is an improvement on previous NAFTA, something that could have been done before, wasn't, now is, you say, "Yes, that's actually an improvement in policy." And I've spent time looking at all of the policies that have been engaged in under the course of Trump that were obvious successes, improvements. The Abraham Accords, another obvious example, the peaceful breakthroughs in diplomatic relations between Israel and a number of Arab States in the broader Middle Eastern region.</p><p>And then of course, calling out things that are poor policy, that are thoughtless, that are the process breaking down. The extraordinary amount of personnel churn, for example. Leaving the World Health Organization, or even worse, Trump organizing mask-free rallies in the middle of a pandemic, leaving the Paris Accord. I mean, all of these things, again, when you're focused on the policy, as opposed to the person, a lot easier to say, "Okay, this makes sense, this doesn't make sense. Let's talk about that, let's divorce it from individual feelings and emotions."</p><p>And then the funny thing is, and this was an interesting lesson for me, right after the election, right after Fox News called Arizona and it was clear that Biden had won, it was the end of the Trump administration, and so I, after four years of trying to be intellectually fair about what I did and didn't think about the Trump administration, trying not to be driven crazy by all of the divisiveness, basically saying, "okay everybody, so now Trump's gone, Biden's going to be president, now is the time to reach out to your neighbor, to your friend, your former friend, the member of your family that's a Trump administration and say, 'Look, I know how you feel.'" And I thought that from my perspective, at that time, very narrowly, I was thinking, "well, people aren't Trump supporters or Biden supporters, people are human beings and the amount of their humanity that's consumed by politics is tiny." I mean, what you really are is a soccer mom or you're into football or you're into tennis, or you like to go out and drink with your buddies or all those things that define you more effectively than who you happen to have voted for. And all of us, that is true for all of us, but what I hadn't appreciated enough given being in my head of, "I'm going to do my best to be analytically correct," all of that, is that the divisions in the United States driven by Trump and exacerbated by the media, made people on the other side feel abused.</p><p>I mean, four years of abuse, Trump won by being such an incredibly toxic and divisive candidate against the other side, us versus them in America. And when you've been in a relationship like that for four years, the first thing you're prepared to do when finally, you see the end of that tunnel is not say, "Okay, let me reach out to the person that's abused me." No, no, it's this catharsis that you need, it's this extraordinary outpouring of emotion. And as someone who focuses more on international affairs in the United States, it reminds me of the way the United States has for a long time treated developing countries, right? Which is not our problem, right? I mean, we're not treated as equivalent human beings, they may or may not be expedient for the United States, but actually it's really about us, it's not about them. Whether you talk about exploitation of resources or military presence, and yeah, we talk a great game on human rights, but the reality is, "what is in it for us?" Because it's America first, whether we say that or not.</p><p>And when you go and talk to someone that isn't American about US foreign policy, that as on the other side of that, whether in Central America or in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, Southeast Asia, you don't start with a conversation of, "Well, let me explain to you why we should all have a kumbaya moment right now," you actually need to listen to a lot of anger that comes from the relationship with the United States. And so, the fact that there was this immense hostility to me for having dared to suggest that the Americans that had just won their election against Trump after four years of the anger and of the feelings of abuse should let bygones be bygones, they thought I was objectively insane, or worse, really ill-intentioned, and came after me hard. And I... That was a learning process frankly, I wrote underneath my initial posts I'm like, "Hey, or alternatively, if I got this completely wrong and you'd like to tell me to fuck off, please tell me to fuck off." And I think that it was a useful lesson.</p><p>Number one, do not take yourself seriously, right? I mean, you get things wrong, and you admit that you get them wrong. You missed something, you admit you missed something. But also, frankly, getting the entire country for a couple of days to tell me to "fuck off," was a little bit of my effort to help bring the country together. If that we could agree, all of us could agree on one thing, it was telling Ian to "fuck off" right after the election, and that actually felt like a public service, so I was happy to do that.</p><p>I hope everyone's good. Again, be safe, avoid people, and I'll talk to you all real soon.</p>
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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.
<p>The first is from the tactical perspective, it is a response to militias, also Iranian-backed, that had been used in attacks against American troops and American civilians, contractors in neighboring Iraq, and that had also led to casualties. The Iranians made an adversary of the United States in the Middle East, and the US does not want to give them a blank check in escalating against US presence in the region. You don't want to necessarily hit Iraq directly because then you undermine the government the US is trying to work with, and so instead, neighboring Syria, where those militias are an operation, easier thing to do. Pinpoint, fairly limited, seen as tit for tat, doesn't derail the efforts to open, reopen negotiations in the Iranian nuclear deal, the JCPOA, which are on track to proceed. And I have a fair amount of confidence that we will get back into that deal by the end of this year, beginning of next year. US will still be a major adversary of Iran. We will still have sanctions on Iran, but the Iranians will be able to start producing another million plus barrels a day of oil, and the inspectors will be able to constrain in a confirmable way Iran's lack of development towards nuclear weapons, at least for the near to medium term.</p><p>Okay, so that's the tactical piece. You check the box, kind of like you checked the box when Trump engaged in strikes in response for Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians. Okay. But then take another step back and I want to tell you what the White House press Spokesperson Jen Psaki had to say, and I quote, "What is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator, but Syria is a sovereign country." And of course, she's pointing out here that without congressional approval, a president engaging in strikes inside a sovereign country has no legal basis. It's a breach of the way law is supposed to work in the US. It undermines separation of powers. Now, what I didn't tell you is that Jen Psaki made that statement, not in the last 24 hours, but actually in 2017, but it doesn't matter. The same rules apply. I understand that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and now she's on the side that has the power as opposed to port when she's criticizing Trump, but again, it's the same point. Congress has abdicated its willingness to take responsibility. They won't engage in legislation. They won't raise the question to approve or disapprove the president's ability to continue to use war powers after 9/11. They say everything is a part of the war on terror, because if everything's a part of the war and terror, then of course nothing is and there are no constraints on executive use of military power. That's not the way it was supposed to work, and it undermines the legitimacy of US actions in the eyes of American citizens and more broadly.</p><p>And then to take the more macro and even existential question, what the hell are we doing in the Middle East? It is worth asking to what extent, in 2021, the United States should continue to have a large military presence on the ground as targets, not necessarily promoting stability, costing a lot of money, seen by many in the region is problematic, and in a part of the world that the United States increasingly doesn't consider strategic and doesn't care very much about. Now, I'm not suggesting that means the US should leave in toto, but I think at least worth asking the question. Because the world today doesn't look anything like the world of the oil blockade in the '70s and that great recession, doesn't look anything like the world after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, that continues, that persists, the longest war we've ever fought in our lifetimes. Why the persistence of the massive war machine in the United States, the US outspending the next seven countries combined in terms of defense spending? Does that make sense in today's world? Particularly as the us lags behind in R&D spending on new technologies compared to China, soon to be the largest economy in the world with a vastly smaller military capacity than the United States and not even trying to develop nuclear parity with the United States and Russia.</p><p>Now, US laws don't apply outside of our country, but humanity does, we're all people. And when I continue to hear the Biden administration and President Biden himself say, "The US is back," it's perhaps the most consistent thing I've heard in terms of foreign policy. "The US is back." We need ask ourselves, back to what? Do we want to be the world's policemen? Do we want to be seen as the indispensable nation globally? Do we still perceive ourselves as the exceptionalist power? Because most other countries around the world don't. I would say not exactly, and I agree that we want to live in peace, but I also think that by we, we don't just mean Americans.</p><p>Anyway, something to think about, see you all next week, have a great weekend, be safe, avoid people.</p>
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