What We're Watching: Iraqi COVID ward burns, the EU's Mozambique mission, Bulgaria's punk-rock leader

eople gather as they inspect the damage at al-Hussain coronavirus hospital where a fire broke out, in Nassiriya, Iraq, July 13, 2021.

Iraqi COVID ward burns: Clashes broke out Monday between police and relatives of patients at the al-Hussein hospital in Nasiriyah (Iraq's fourth largest city) who were killed when a fire broke out in the COVID-19 isolation ward. At least 92 people died, and dozens were injured when a the shoddy ward, constructed a few months ago to manage the growing COVID outbreak, became ablaze. (Iraq's Health Ministry has still not confirmed the cause of the fire.) This disaster comes as the COVID crisis has severely strained the country's already-feeble healthcare system, leading to more than 1.4 million infections and at least 17,000 COVID deaths nationwide (likely a gross undercount). Monday's blaze comes months after a deadly fire at a Baghdad hospital killed at least 82 people. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has ordered the suspension and arrest of health and defense officials in Nasiriya, but it's unclear whether this move will be enough to placate furious Iraqis who are rising up after years of neglect, economic stagnation, war, and now a pandemic. Indeed, many Iraqis who have hit the streets in recent months are asking a simple question: what do we have to lose? Only 2.5 percent of the Iraqi population has received one dose of COVID vaccine.


EU's Mozambique mission: The EU said Monday that it will establish a new military mission in Mozambique to help the government push back against an increasingly brazen Islamic insurgency that's taken over large swaths of territory in the country's northeast. Portugal, Mozambique's former colonizer, is already training Mozambican troops and will head the mission on the ground. Like the EU operation launched in Mali in 2013, European troops will train soldiers and help rebuild infrastructure, but they will not engage in combat missions. It's unclear whether the 27-member bloc will send military equipment. For more than three years, fighters belonging to the al-Shabaab militant group that claim loose ties to the Islamic State have waged a brutal insurgency in Cabo Delgado province that has killed thousands and displaced more than 700,000 people. Earlier this year, US Special Forces soldiers began training Mozambican troops as part of an effort to quash the insurgency in the country's northeast.

Will Bulgaria have a punk-rock PM? With around 99 percent of votes counted from Sunday's national election in Bulgaria, former punk-rock front man and TV personality Slavi Trifonov, who fashions himself as "anti-politics," is favored to head Bulgaria's next government. So far, Trifonov's There Is Such a People party has won 23.9 percent of the vote, just 0.2 percentage points ahead of former prime minister Boyko Borisov's conservative GERB party. Trifonov, who says he will only sit in government with specific protest parties, says he will not try to form a coalition, but will instead head a minority government. The former pop star, who has no real political agenda and did no real canvassing prior to the polls, says he is not courting groups like the anti-corruption group Stand Up! Mafia Out! that emerged from last year's rallies against the corruption plagued Borisov government. Given the slim margin, analysts say that another election cannot be ruled out, which would be Bulgaria's third in 2021. Either way, this result is likely to signal the end of Borisov's years-long grip on power, an era characterized by successive corruption scandals and allegations of ties to organized crime groups. (For your amusement, here is Trifonov rocking it out with the Ku ku band, circa 2011.)

Meet Zoe Marshall, grandmother, fishmonger, and thriving business owner.

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When Zoe Marshall decided to switch careers in her forties and become a fishmonger, she was scared. After leaving her job of 23 years, Zoe was forced to pivot in order to keep her family's home. Despite challenges, she forged ahead, opening Sea-Licious. Accepting Visa payments in her fishmonger shop, this access to commerce helps Zoe provide convenience to her customers and confidence in their transactions. Though she's one of the only women in the fish market each morning, her business and its place in the local community are flourishing with Visa's help.

Learn more about Zoe and her story.

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.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

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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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.

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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