What We're Watching: Chinese tennis star reappears, Bulgarian president re-elected, US Fed chief renominated

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has a virtual discussion with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai in Lausanne, Switzerland, November 21, 2021

Is Peng Shuai really safe? The Women's Tennis Association has said that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's video call with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Sunday does not sufficiently address concerns about her safety and whereabouts. Peng disappeared from public life several weeks ago after accusing former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her. Over the weekend, Chinese state media published photos of her at a restaurant and a tennis tournament, and she held a half-hour call with the IOC in which she said she was fine and asked for privacy. But no one can be sure that Peng wasn't coerced into making those statements. The WTA, which has threatened to pull tournaments out of China, continues to call for a full investigation into Peng's allegations, and the story is adding fresh impetus to calls for nations around the world to boycott the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.


Bulgaria's president wins re-election. Rumen Radev, a political independent and anti-corruption crusader, won a second five-year term as president after trouncing his opponent Anastas Gerdzhikov, who was backed by the center-right GERB party of long-serving former PM Boyko Borissov. Although the Bulgarian presidency is largely ceremonial, Radev's victory could ease more than six months of political chaos: the country has held three different parliamentary elections this year, with a different winner each time. The victor of the most recent one, held last week, was "Change Continues," an anti-corruption alliance founded by two US-educated entrepreneurs just two months ago. Radev is close to "Change Continues," but the party still needs to hammer together a coalition. A little political stability would be a good thing as Bulgaria struggles with one of the worst COVID waves — and lowest vaccination rates — in Europe.

Powell is renominated to head the Fed. US President Joe Biden will renominate Jerome Powell to head the Federal Reserve for another four years. Tapping Powell, who has bipartisan support, avoids a political fight during the confirmation hearings and preserves continuity as the US economy struggles with the worst inflation rates in decades. The move will stoke tension with progressive Democrats, who wanted a nominee tougher on banks and more responsive to the economic impacts of climate change. Their preferred choice, Lael Brainard, will serve as vice-chair. Powell, who was first nominated by Trump, has a tough job ahead of him: inflation is soaring thanks to some combination of post-pandemic bottlenecks, high government spending (which will spike again as a new infrastructure plan moves forward), and low interest rates. But keeping inflation in check is just one of the Fed's jobs. Another is to maximize employment. Some 20 months after the first US lockdowns, millions of workers have yet to return to the labor force.

What we certainly aren't watching anymore

Afghan soap operas. The Taliban government of Afghanistan has decreed that women may no longer appear in soap operas or other dramatic television programming. The ruling, issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, came atop several other guidelines restricting what women are permitted to wear on TV and in public. Back in the 1990s, when the Taliban last ran the country, they famously banned all TV and films. It appears for now that TV programming will continue, but does anyone want to, like, watch this stuff?
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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