What We're Watching: Haitian PM steps down, German floods get political, Biden and crew call out China hackers, Japan's oyster "plague"

What We're Watching: Haitian PM steps down, German floods get political, Biden and crew call out China hackers, Japan's oyster "plague"

Haiti's PM is stepping down: Claude Joseph, who served as Haiti's foreign minister and interim PM under recently-murdered president Jovenel Moïse, said Monday that he would step down, paving the way for his opponent Ariel Henry to become the new PM. Henry, for his part, was actually tapped by Moïse to form a government just two days before the assassination, but never sworn in. Joseph used that detail to take power after Moïse's death, and initially declared a "state of siege." But with violence surging, and international pressure against him from The Core Group — which includes the US, the Organization of American States, and a number of European countries — Joseph agreed to step down "for the good of the nation." The incoming Henry has a daunting task: amid spiraling social, political, and economic crises, he must cool tensions, form a workable government, and restore some semblance of order to allow for fresh elections this September.


The US and friends call out Chinese hackers: On Monday, the Biden administration accused Beijing of actively supporting a hacking operation against Microsoft email systems that are used by many governments and major companies, including defense contractors. The statement, which followed a four-month investigation, also accused the Chinese government of hiring criminal gangs to conduct ransomware attacks on US companies. Importantly, Biden didn't show up for this fight by himself; every member of NATO plus Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have joined the condemnation of China. Still, there appear to be no sanctions in the offing, and the EU was careful to say only that the attacks came from Chinese territory, leaving open the interpretation that the Chinese state is merely negligent in dealing with hackers rather than calling the shots for them. But still, this coordinated expression of condemnation shows a broadening effort by the world's democracies to work together to limit Chinese cyber-aggression.

Germany floods drench politics: Flash floods in Western Germany have already killed close to 160 people, and they could have a big impact on the country's upcoming general election. Speaking from the devastated town of Schuld (which, as it happens, means "guilt" in German) outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the world to do more about climate change, which fuels extreme weather events like this. Opposition Green Party leader Anna Baerbock echoed that message on the scene — after stumbling in the polls recently, she's looking to capitalize on the broader sense of climate disaster. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who will lead the reeling center-left Social Democrats into the election, has taken the reins of crisis response, proposing a $350 million emergency relief plan. Lastly, while Merkel's own CDU party is still the frontrunner, party leader Armin Laschet isn't helping much right now: he was caught on camera goofing off during a solemn speech by the German president about the disaster. The latest polling — taken just as the floodwaters were rising last week — shows the CDU with 29 percent support, the Greens at 19 percent, and the Social Democrats at 16 percent.

What We're Shucking

Undaunted oysters: As if the Japanese government didn't have enough to worry about while holding an unwanted Olympics in the middle of a pandemic, now even the marine life is showing up to cause trouble. It seems a "plague" of Magaki oysters — a delicacy — have attached themselves to protection buoys at one of the boat-race venues, causing them to sink. Officials have already spent more than a million dollars to manage the mollusk mischief, and they still aren't quite sure if it'll work. Our advice to the Olympic canoe racers? Trade that paddle for a tiny fork and enjoy!

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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