What We're Watching: A poisoning in Russia, new weapons for the UAE, China vs food influencers

What We're Watching: A poisoning in Russia, new weapons for the UAE, China vs food influencers

A poisoning in Russia? Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny remains in critical condition after falling ill in what his aides say is a poisoning. Navalny, a vocal anti corruption activist, is the most prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin. A history of high-profile poisonings of Putin nemeses has led to suspicion that the Kremlin might have had a hand in the alleged attack, but there is no evidence to support that as of now. More immediately, the incident may put Putin in a tricky spot: Navalny enjoys substantial popularity — he was one of the leaders of the mass protest movement of 2011. In 2018, the Kremlin flimsily disqualified him from running in the presidential election, rather than facing him outright. His demise could well provoke a new wave of unrest at a sensitive moment for Putin: although the Russian president recently secured the right to rule until 2036, his approval ratings are touching all time lows, protests against him have recently erupted in Russia's Far East, and hundreds of thousands protesting next door in Belarus sets an example he surely doesn't want Russians to follow. We are keeping an eye on Navalny's condition, Russia's streets, and how Western countries will react if a deliberate poisoning is in fact traced back to someone in the Russian government.


New weapons for the UAE? There has been much fanfare recently over the historic agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, brokered by the Trump administration. United in their mutual enmity towards Iran, it's the first time that a Gulf Arab state has normalized ties with Israel. But in recent days, widespread optimism has been clouded by reports that the Trump administration used its bargaining power to negotiate the sale of sophisticated F35 fighter jets to the Emirates — a contract the UAE has been trying to lock down for years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not happy about the reported side deal, to which he was not privy. Why? Since the 1970s, America has committed to ensuring Israel maintains a "qualitative military edge" over its Arab neighbors (this policy was reflected in a 2008 US law). As a result, successive US administrations have refused to sell Arab states that are hostile to Israel some sophisticated weaponry (rousing the ire of allies in the Gulf). Now, with reports that the Trump administration is pushing for the arms sale — which would include stealth F35 fighter jets and advanced drones — Israel is worried about how this will affect the sensitive balance of power in the region. But at the end of the day, neither the Trump administration nor PM Netanyahu will have the final say because only the US Congress can certify such weapons sales. Stay tuned.

China's crackdown on... food influencers: The Chinese Communist Party's crackdown on ethnic minorities and dissenters is well established. But now, it's setting its sights on a new demographic: food influencers. Food shortage in China — exacerbated by the deepening trade war with Washington — is a massive problem that President Xi Jinping is trying to address through his "Clean Plate" campaign, aimed at shining a light on food wastage — a value at odds with food influencers who often peck at over-the-top meals prepared for the digital gaze. Now, food influencers within the popular Korean digital scene known as Mukbang (loosely translated in Korean as "eating broadcast," where people tune in to watch their favorite stars... eat) are having their videos blurred out on Chinese platforms. Meanwhile, Chinese people searching relevant terms are also being served warning notices by the government to stop engaging with the content. "I don't eat much in my videos and try to eat healthy food," one Korean influencer recently said in response to the latest act of Chinese censorship.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

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For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

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.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

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UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

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UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

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