What We're Watching: Hariri throws in the towel, China calls for Pakistan blast probe, Poland hits EU over judiciary

What We're Watching: Hariri throws in the towel, China calls for Pakistan blast probe, Poland hits EU over judiciary

Lebanon's PM-designate resigns: Things continue to deteriorate in crisis-ridden Lebanon. On Thursday, veteran politician and prime minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned eight months after being tapped to form a technocratic government after a series of crises and disasters, chief among them the devastating explosion at a Beirut port last August. Lebanon's Hezbollah-aligned President Michel Aoun refused to accept any of Hariri's proposals, because he said they did not reflect the country's sectarian power-sharing requirements. But Hariri pushed back, saying that Aoun wanted too many government spots for his allies. The Lebanese pound dipped to a new low after Hariri called it quits Thursday, reaching 21,000 to the US dollar. It's unclear who will step in now to form a government, a prerequisite to releasing billions of dollars in aid from former colonizer France and others. Meanwhile, the EU has said it'll impose sanctions on Lebanese officials if progress remains static.


China wants answers from Pakistan: China is putting pressure on Pakistan to investigate this week's explosion on a bus in the remote northern Kohistan region that killed 13 people — among them nine Chinese workers employed at an infrastructure project financed by China's Belt and Road Initiative. The Pakistanis initially blamed the blast on a gas leak, but a preliminary probe has found traces of explosives. China is a close ally and has major investments in Pakistan, including a $65 billion economic corridor linking China's northwestern Xinjiang region to Gwadar port in southern Pakistan. In recent years, Pakistani militants — especially separatists from Balochistan — have regularly targeted Chinese infrastructure investments, but so far Beijing has not pulled the plug. For their part, the Pakistanis need Chinese cash to build infrastructure — even if these projects are very unpopular and could make Pakistan fall into China's debt trap. Indeed, Beijing has flushed Islamabad with cash in recent years, and it's paying off: PM Khan now says China has been one of Pakistan's most reliable friends in times of need.

Poland, EU tussle over rule of law: Poland's constitutional court has ruled that the European Union can't tell the country how to run its judiciary. It's the latest episode in a long-running dispute between Warsaw and Brussels over sweeping judicial reforms by Poland's conservative President Andrzej Duda and his ruling Law and Justice party. Since coming to office in 2015, the populist Duda has given broad powers to the supreme court's disciplinary chamber, which the EU wants to dissolve because it punishes and purges Polish judges critical of the government. Brussels says the reforms undermine judicial independence in Poland, while Warsaw argues that the overhaul is necessary to fix an inefficient judiciary. The Polish government has also cracked down on LGBTQ rights in recent years, creating yet more friction with the EU. The EU has spent years fighting member states Hungary and Poland — both of which are led by "illiberal" populists — over rule of law and human rights issues. Last year, Brussels tried to make disbursement of the bloc's pandemic relief fund contingent on all member states respecting EU rule-of-law norms. But the EU backed off after the Hungarians and the Poles threatened to block the EU budget.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes 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 crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. 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.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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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. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

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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