What We're Watching: Modest hopes for Venezuelan talks, Israel-Poland diplomatic spat deepens, Ebola in the Ivory Coast

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro addresses the media from the Miraflores Palace, in Caracas, Venezuela August 16, 2021

Will fresh talks help Venezuela? For just the fourth time in half a decade, the Maduro regime and opposition forces have met for fresh talks to try to chart a path forward for crisis-ridden Venezuela. The negotiations, held last week in Mexico City, were attended by both President Nicolás Maduro as well as opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who in 2019 declared himself interim president after an election widely viewed as rigged was met by mass protests. What's the aim of these talks? Well, depends who you ask. For Guaido's camp, the focus is on free and fair elections, the release of political prisoners, and human rights. (Maduro has shown some goodwill in recent days by agreeing to release opposition politician Freddy Guevara.) Maduro, on the other hand, is desperate to have crippling US sanctions lifted so Caracas doesn't have to rely as heavily on China, Russia and Iran. But because Maduro has refused to give up power, analysts say, the opposition's immediate goal now is to pave the way for local and regional elections in November, as well as to boost the COVID vaccine rollout. The next round of negotiations has been set for next month.


Israel and Poland at loggerheads again: Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has recalled Poland's ambassador over a newly-passed Polish law that restricts the rights of Holocaust survivors to reclaim property stolen during World War II, and later seized by Poland's Communist regime. Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says the law aims to stave off grifters who abuse the system to claim property that doesn't belong to them. But Lapid, backed by the United States, hit back saying that it is "an immoral, anti-Semitic law" that prevents any recourse for aging Holocaust survivors, and said Israel may downgrade ties with Poland. This development is just the latest installment in an ongoing diplomatic spat between Israel and Poland. In 2018, Warsaw proposed a law criminalizing claims that Poland, which was home to the world's largest Jewish community before World War II, collaborated with Nazi Germany. Israel criticized the law, which was eventually watered-down, saying it whitewashed Polish complicity in the Nazi genocide (about 90 percent of Poland's pre-war Jewish community was killed in the Holocaust). Unlike Germany, Poland has never passed sweeping legislation providing reparations to Holocaust survivors and their families.

Ivory Coast begins vaccinations for… Ebola: The West African country of Ivory Coast has recorded a new case of Ebola for the first time since 1994. This comes just months after the World Health Organization declared the end of an Ebola outbreak in neighboring Guinea that killed a dozen people, sending shockwaves through the region as it grapples with a dearth of COVID vaccines. Meanwhile, the WHO said it is conducting genetic sequencing tests to determine whether the virus is linked to recent cases in Guinea. Guinea, for its part, sent 5,000 Ebola vaccine doses that Ivorian authorities said are already being used on a "targeted group." The WHO and African Union are monitoring the situation closely given that an Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018-2020, the country's tenth outbreak, resulted in over 2,200 deaths.

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Does the EU really have a foreign policy?

For decades, European leaders have debated the question of whether Europe should have a common foreign policy that’s independent of the United States.

Germany, the UK, and countries situated closest to Russia have traditionally preferred to rely on membership in NATO and US military strength to safeguard European security at a cost affordable for them.

French leaders, by contrast, have argued that, with or without NATO, Europe needs an approach to foreign-policy questions that doesn’t depend on alignment, or even agreement, with Washington.

There are those within many EU countries who agree that Europe must speak with a single clear voice if the EU is to promote European values and protect European interests in a world of US, Chinese, and Russian power.

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The politics of US crime: Perception vs reality

A recent spate of violent crimes in New York City has made national headlines. Since Eric Adams was sworn in four weeks ago as mayor of America’s most populous city, violence on the streets — and the subways — has again become a major political focus. Things got even more heated this week, when two young cops were killed while responding to a domestic dispute in Harlem.

Crime is not only a dominant political issue in New York. It also resonates more broadly with American voters worried over increased lawlessness and unrest. Indeed, crime is already shaping up to be a wedge issue as Republicans vie to win control of the US Congress this November.

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Hard Numbers: South China Sea jet search, US economy surges, Cuban protesters charged, Africa gets vaxxed

FILE PHOTO of a F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Jan. 14, 2022.

U.S Navy/EYEPRESS

100 million: The US Navy is scrambling to find a $100 million F-35 stealth fighter jet that crashed and sank soon after taking off on Monday from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. One expert described the Cold War-ish race to locate the remains — stocked with classified equipment — before the Chinese do as "basically The Hunt For Red October meets The Abyss."

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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a pipe at the Chelyabinsk pipe rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020.

Nord Stream 2 used as a bargaining chip with Russia. The US now says that if Russia invades Ukraine, it’ll block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to transfer even more natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. This is a big deal, considering that Germany – thirsty for more Russian gas – has long been pushing for the pipeline to start operating despite ongoing objections from Washington. The $11 billion energy project, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany, is seen as (a big) part of the reason why Berlin is reluctant to push back hard against the Kremlin over its troop buildup at the Ukrainian border. Still, German officials admit Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions if the Russians invade, suggesting that the Americans’ threat was likely coordinated with Berlin in advance. This comes amid ongoing diplomatic attempts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, with US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to meet at the White House on February 7.

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Putin Has a “Noose” Around Ukraine, Says Russia Analyst Alina Polyakova | GZERO World

What’s going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind? That’s the million-dollar question.

Ukraine and Russia analyst Alina Polyakova doesn’t think it’s anything good.

Russia's president, she says, has put a “noose” around Ukraine with a troop build-up along the border that could spell invasion in the near term. The US has led an effort to deescalate the situation through diplomacy.

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The AI Addiction Cycle | GZERO World

Ever wonder why everything seems to be a major crisis these days? For former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, it's because artificial intelligence has determined that's the only way to get your attention.

What's more, it's driving an addiction cycle among humans that will lead to enormous depression and dissatisfaction.

"Oh my God there's another message. Oh my God, there's another crisis. Oh my God, there's another outrage. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," he says. "I don't think humans, at least in modern society where [we’ve] evolved to be in an 'Oh my God' situation all day."

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Merkin' It With Angela Merkel | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

Angela Merkel is retired — but only from politics. Still, maybe she's not as good at other jobs as she was as German chancellor.

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