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!

Last week at the 2021 Global Inclusive Growth Summit purpose-driven leaders and inclusive economy experts discussed solutions for creating sustainable growth in the face of change and addressed collective action to rebuild more inclusive economies. Listen on demand.

Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats "persona non-grata" after a group of 10 Western countries including the US, France, and Germany called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crackdown on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's historically fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad betweenWashington and Ankara last year after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

Bosnia on the brink: Bosnia is facing its worst political crisis since the end of the bloody Yugoslav civil war in 1995, which pitted ethnic Bosnians against Serbs and Croats and left more than 100,000 dead. What's going on? Well, when that war ended, the peace agreement created a special enclave within Bosnia for ethnic Serbs — the better to keep warring ethnicities apart. This has always been a messy arrangement, but now the nationalistic leader of that enclave, Milorad Dodik, is threatening to secede altogether, amid a spat over new laws meant to ban denial of the genocide that Serbs carried out against Bosnian Muslims during the war. A breakup of Bosnia could quickly lead to serious violence, and both the EU and US staunchly opposed the move. But Dodik is undaunted. He says that Serb-only institutions will be in place as soon as November. Asked how he'd pull this off, Dodik — who recently oversaw provocative military drills that spooked Bosnia's other ethnic groups — said "as the Slovenes did it." That's a not-so-veiled reference to the breakup of former Yugoslavia, which led to years of bloodshed. Indeed, it's not a good omen, and is raising fears of a return to the deadly violence of the 1990s.

Right-winger on a roll in Chile: José Antonio Kast, an ultra-conservative politician who pines for the days of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, has ridden a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment to the top of the polls ahead of next month's presidential election. He's currently at 21 percent, one point ahead of leftist former student leader Gabriel Boric. Talk about political whiplash: it was just a few months ago that Chileans elected a broadly leftwing constituent assembly to rewrite the country's Pinochet-era constitution in the wake of mass protests about inequality. But Kast, an avowed free-marketeer and social conservative, has tapped into rising resentment against the vast numbers of migrants – in particular from Venezuela and Haiti – who have arrived in the country in recent years. Last month, for example, saw an outbreak of violence against Venezuelan refugees in the northern city of Iquique. Kast has called for digging ditches along the borders and wants a special police force to root out illegal migrants. In the last presidential election, Kast got less than 8 percent of the vote. This time he's making a race of it.

G-20 members split on climate ahead of COP26: Just before the COP26 climate summit kicks off in Glasgow on October 30, the leaders of the world's top 20 economies will meet in Rome to discuss climate change, soaring energy prices, and post-pandemic recovery. But the G-20 remains divided between Western countries – like the US and and the EU – demanding firm commitments from all member countries on cutting carbon dioxide emissions, and top polluters like China, India, and Russia who say that ask is unreasonable given that many Western states have benefited from fossil fuel use for decades. Of these three outspoken nations, only India's PM Narendra Modi will travel to Rome, which makes it unlikely that any meaningful progress will be made ahead of the landmark summit in the UK. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden is in a tough spot: ahead of a trip to Europe this week, he was hoping to have secured billions of dollars in new climate funding from Congress, but his ambitious plans remain stuck due to divisions within his own party. More broadly, if no consensus is reached in Rome, it'll raise the stakes even more for Glasgow — and the planet can't wait any longer for politicians to make up their minds.

Colombia nabs top drug kingpin: Colombian security forces have arrested Dairo Antonio Usuga, the most-wanted drug kingpin in the country since Pablo Escobar. Usuga – known by his alias Otoniel – is head of the notorious Gulf Cartel, and will likely be extradited to face a slew of charges in the US, which had a $5 million bounty on his head. While some say Otoniel's capture is a big win for Colombia, others say that rather than striking a blow to narco-related violence, the strategy of taking down kingpins creates more power struggles within cartels, in turn leading to more violence and bloodshed. This was the case following the 1993 death of Escobar and the 2016 arrest of "El Chapo" Guzmán in Mexico. Still, if Otoniel spills the beans on his operations in exchange for a lighter sentence in America, that could provide critical intelligence for Colombian and US drug enforcement to better target other narcos at a time when large swaths of rural Colombia are now ruled by gangs, contributing to regional instability.

16: Rich countries have secured 16 times more COVID vaccine supplies than developing nations that rely on the struggling COVAX facility, according to analysis by the Financial Times. COVAX is steadily losing bargaining power to buy vaccines at low prices due to the combined effects of booster shots being doled out in developed countries, as well as low-income countries deciding to buy jabs on their own.

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Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

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In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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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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