What We're Watching: Biden's oil dilemma, Abiy Ahmed takes up arms, Iran nuclear talks on life-support

What We're Watching: Biden's oil dilemma, Abiy Ahmed takes up arms, Iran nuclear talks on life-support

Biden's oil dilemma. The Biden administration says it will release some 50 million barrels of crude from US stockpiles in a bid to reign in soaring gasoline prices. Similar moves were made by Japan, South Korea, and China in recent days as global energy prices rise and supplies remain scarce in many places amid the ongoing economic recovery. Pain at the gas pump and broader inflation concerns in the US have contributed to Biden's tanking poll numbers. With Republicans poised to do well in next year's midterm elections, the president is under pressure to turn things around fast. But Biden has already come under fire from environmental groups, who say the president's move flies in the face of his Glasgow commitments to reduce rather than boost fossil fuel consumption. But in domestic politics, bread-and-butter issues are paramount, and if Biden doesn't "fix" the gas problem hurting American families, the Democrats could suffer a beating at the polls. What's more, Biden has also angered the 23-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which worries that extra US oil on the market will bring down prices for their own crude. Now the organization is warning that it might renege on an earlier promise to produce more oil.


Abiy Ahmed takes to the battlefield. Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has also been accused of leading a civil war where crimes against humanity have been committed, says he will personally lead the army "on the battlefield" as the rival Tigray People's Liberation Force make inroads towards the capital Addis Ababa. Abiy has called for "martyrdom" in his year-long conflict with the TPLF, who dominated Ethiopian politics for decades before Abiy took power in 2018. Abiy, a former soldier who recently called on all able people to fight, is not messing around: he said that regional and national government officials will take over his duties while he takes up arms. This latest development in a civil war that's killed tens of thousands and displaced some 2 million people comes just weeks after reports that Tigrayan rebels captured key territory around the capital and suggests that Abiy's (political) days may be numbered.

Are Iran nuclear talks collapsing? An Iranian delegation will meet with European, Russian, and Chinese counterparts in the upcoming days for the first time since Iran's hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took office this summer. The Americans will be in Vienna too, but they won't attend face-to-face meetings with the Iranians. Six months ago, the Biden administration was optimistic that it could revive the 2015 nuclear deal, but that's in doubt now, as the sides remain very far apart. Iran continues to enrich uranium to near bomb-making levels, while denying access to international inspectors. Meanwhile, the Biden administration won't lift sanctions until Tehran stops enrichment and has balked at Iran's (impossible) demand for guarantees that future US administrations won't impose economic sanctions. With prospects for a comprehensive deal fading, the US is reportedly already considering alternatives, including an interim deal that would simply freeze the status quo. That might be better than nothing, but according to some estimates, Tehran is already just weeks away from being able to develop a nuclear weapon meaning that the status quo is a dangerous one.

Two Black women hugging, with one woman pictured smiling

With half of all Black Americans excluded from the financial mainstream and Black-owned small businesses blocked from funding, we're working with city leaders and providing digital access to essential financial tools for immediate impact in Black communities. Learn more.

When Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the "1619 Project" tweeted: "In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black lives. This is the legacy of 1619." In an upcoming interview with Ian Bremmer, she explains why she saw the verdict as a consequence of this country's long history of double standards when it comes to racial justice. "The fact that we own more guns in this country than any other country is certainly a legacy of 1619" Hannah-Jones says. "This idea that white Americans can patrol, that they have the right to open carry, this is not something that Black Americans can engage in, in the same way." Watch her full conversation with Ian Bremmer in an upcoming episode of GZERO World.

What We're Watching: Omicron sparks fear and restrictions, Modi plays politics with farmers, Kyiv on alert

The Omicron wars: Can we really afford to lock down again? In response to the new omicron variant first discovered by South African scientists, many countries have reintroduced pandemic travel restrictions that we thought were long behind us. Israel and Morocco have banned all foreign visitors, while tougher rules on quarantining and travel have also been enforced in the UK, Australia, Singapore and parts of Europe. Meanwhile, travelers from southern African countries have been banned from entering almost everywhere. Scientists say that it is still too early to say how infectious the new variant is, or how resistant it might be to vaccines. This disruption comes just as many economies were starting to reopen after more than 20-months of pandemic closures and chaos. The new restrictions are already triggering a fierce debate: some say that we are now in the endemic stage of the pandemic and that it is both unsustainable – and economically and psychologically harmful – to keep locking down every time a new variant surfaces. Others, like Israel's PM Naftali Bennett, say we are in the throes of a new "state of emergency," and that we can't afford to take any chances. What do you think?

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The Graphic Truth: Perceptions of COVID

Where do people think the pandemic is mostly contained where they live and that life will soon return to normal? A recent Ipsos survey takes a look at people's perceptions in more than two dozen countries. Saudis, Indians, and Malaysians top the list of optimists, while most Europeans aren't quite sure, and things seem particularly grim in Canada, where just a quarter of those polled feel that the pandemic is behind them. But do these perceptions have anything to do with the current state of daily cases? We crossed that specific data point with the Ipsos poll's findings and, well, have a look. It seems factors beyond actual cases may play a bigger role in how people feel about the pandemic.

Demonstrators protest against a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) law that is voted on in a referendum, in front of the Swiss Federal Palace, the Bundeshaus, in Bern, Switzerland, November 28, 2021.

63: Early results of a national referendum found that 63 percent of Swiss voters back legislation mandating residents show proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or recovery from COVID to enter public spaces. Amid a surge in COVID cases, the Swiss government has opted not to impose new restrictions as other European states have done.

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The supply chain mess is hitting all of us. Inflation is now the highest it's been in over 30 years.

The costs of food, gas and housing are going through the roof. What's more, almost everything made outside of America is now in short supply — like semiconductors for our cars.

Why is this happening? A lot of it has to do with the pandemic. Asian factories had to shut down or thought there would be less demand for their stuff. So did shipping companies. But then online shopping surged, and now there's a lot of pent-up demand to spend all the cash we saved during COVID.

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Veteran Korea correspondent and former AP Pyongyang bureau chief Jean Lee discusses the two Koreas with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. From K-Pop supergroup BTS to Oscar-winner Parasite to Netflix global sensation Squid Game, South Korea seems to be churning out one massive cultural hit after another. And North Korea is taking notice.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: The Korean Peninsula from K-Pop to Kim Jong-un

Subscribe to GZERO on YouTube to be the first to see new episodes of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: http://bit.ly/2TxCVnY

The economic consequences of high inflation are already bad enough.

But for Larry Summers, sometimes the psychological trauma that comes with it can do even more damage to a society.

"A society where inflation is accelerating is a society that feels out of control."

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How did we get to today's supply chain mess?

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