What We're Watching: Haiti's investigation, Iran watching Afghanistan, pro-EU party leads in Moldova, Seoul battles the COVID beat

Haiti's Head of Haitian National Police, Leon Charles speaks during a news conference following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 11, 2021

Who killed Haiti's president? It's the stuff of heist movies: A presidential assassination. Foreign mercenaries. Sabotage. A chaotic struggle for control. The story of what happened to Haiti's president Jovenel Moïse, shot at his residence last week, is still extremely unclear. Haitian police and military say that a handful of mercenaries from Colombia were hired by military contractors (possibly at the behest of Haitian oligarchs) to kill Moïse, who was trying to break a corrupt elite's grip on the country's affairs. At least two of those Colombians were killed in a shootout with police in Port-au-Prince over the weekend. (The plot thickens: their families say that the men were actually brought into Haiti to protect the president and other high-ranking officials.) At least two dozen people have now been arrested in connection with the hit, including a Florida-based doctor with Haitian roots who reportedly had ambitions to return to Haiti and assume the presidency. The US has sent a team to help with the investigation, though the Biden administration hasn't agreed to the Haitian PM's request to send US troops to help keep order. Haiti is now on the brink of full blown implosion in the absence of a functioning government, supreme court, or economy.


Watching Iran watch Afghanistan: Many countries are closely watching Afghanistan as the US withdraws and the Taliban gains ground. Chief among them is Iran, which shares a 920 kilometer border with the conflict-ridden country. Iran, dominated by Shiite clerics, is ideologically opposed to the Taliban, which follows an extreme Sunni interpretation of Islam. The last thing Tehran wants is more Sunni militancy in the region — but that's precisely the way things are headed. On Friday, the Taliban seized control of the lucrative land border between the two countries, a massive feat for the terror group. As the Taliban has swept across the country in recent months, the Iranians have tried to make diplomatic overtures to them, a sign of the perceived inevitability of a full Taliban takeover. But critics say that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi, should hold the Taliban responsible for crimes against Shiite minorities in Afghanistan in recent decades. At least 53 percent of all Afghan districts are already under Taliban control, and Iran fears a mass spillover of Afghan refugees in the near-term.

Pro-Europe party leads in Moldovan snaps: The party of pro-EU President Maia Sandu is on track to win Sunday's snap election in the small, impoverished former Soviet republic of Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and Romania. As of late Monday, Sandu's center-right Action and Solidarity party had taken almost half of the vote, against about a third for a pro-Russian coalition led by two former presidents with close Kremlin ties. Several hundred thousand outstanding diaspora ballots could open up an even bigger lead for Sandu. The 49-year old former World Bank economist won the presidency in November 2020, promising to root out corruption and bring the country of 2.6 million closer to the European Union. That rankled Russia, which sees the country as part of its sphere of influence and has supported a separatist enclave there called Transnistria since 1991. Sandu called the snap election to shore up her position — looks like it paid off, but keep an eye on Russia's response…

Seoul battles the beat to stop COVID: If throbbing, fast-paced techno bangers get you into the ZONE at the gym, you're going to have to skip that spinning class in South Korea now. In a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19, the government has prohibited gyms from playing any songs that are faster than 120 beats per minute in group fitness sessions. Authorities say that this is the only way to keep gyms open safely: the faster tempos get people too hyped up, causing them to sweat and breath on each other more, they say. The new ruling means that the most famous song ever to come out of Korea — PSY's Gangnam Style — is ruled out (132 bpm), but K-pop sensation BTS' current chart-topping single Butter is in the clear at a sluggishly "safe" 110 bpm.

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Learn more about Zoe and her story.

Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the NBA's latest rift with China, Brazil's Senate investigation, and COVID booster shots.

China wipes Boston Celtics from NBA broadcast after the "Free Tibet" speech from Enes Kanter. Is NBA boxing itself into a corner?

Nice mixed sports metaphor there. NBA has some challenges because they are of course the most progressive on political and social issues in the United States among sports leagues, but not when it comes to China, their most important international market. And you've seen that with LeBron James telling everyone about we need to learn better from the Communist Party on issues like Hong Kong and how Daryl Morey got hammered for taking his stance in favor of Hong Kong democracy. Well, Enes Kanter's doing the same thing and he's a second-string center. Didn't even play yesterday and still the Chinese said that they were not going to air any Boston Celtics games. Why? Because he criticized the Chinese government and had some "Free Tibet" sneakers. This is a real problem for a lot of corporations out there, but particularly publicly, the NBA. Watch for a bunch of American politicians to make it harder for the NBA going forward, saying how dare you kowtow to the Chinese when you're all about "Black Lives Matter" inside the United States. No fun.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

A Trump media platform? Is this for real?

This week, President Trump announced his potential return to social media through the creation of his own digital media platform that's going to merge with an existing publicly-traded company in a deal known as a SPAC. These deals are increasingly popular for getting access to capital, and it seems like that's where President Trump is headed.

The publicly-traded company's stock was up on the news, but it's really hard to see this coming together. The Trump media company claims it wants to go up against not only Facebook and Twitter, but companies like Amazon and cloud computing and even Disney providing a safe space for conservatives to share their points of view. The fact of the matter is, conservatives do quite well on existing social media platforms when they aren't being kicked off for violating the terms of service, and other conservative social media platforms that have attempted to launch this year haven't really gone off the ground.

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Protests in Sudan: Protests are again shaking the Sudanese capital, as supporters of rival wings of the transitional government take to the streets. Back in 2019, after popular demonstrations led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, a deal was struck between civilian activists and the army, in which a joint civilian-military government would run the country until fresh elections could be held in 2023. But now supporters of the military wing are calling on it to dissolve the government entirely, while supporters of the civilian wing are counter-protesting. Making matters worse, a pro-military tribal leader in Eastern Sudan has set up a blockade which is interrupting the flow of goods and food to the capital. The US, which backs the civilian wing, has sent an envoy to Khartoum as tensions rise, while Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are all vying for a piece as well.

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