What We're Watching: A widening Bolivian divide

What We're Watching: A widening Bolivian divide

Bolivia's polarizing interim president: After Bolivian president Evo Morales and his deputies were pushed out of office for rigging last month's presidential election, little-known opposition Senator Jeanine Añez took office as interim leader. Añez has promised to guide the country toward a "national consensus" ahead of new elections in January, but she's already risked deepening political divides. On day one, she lugged a giant bible into office, in a perceived swipe at Morales, who had elevated popular indigenous traditions that the ultra-conservative Ms. Añez once called "satanic." She's also abruptly reoriented the country's foreign ties toward Latin America's conservative governments. On her watch, at least eight pro-Morales protesters have been killed by the authorities. Morales himself, exiled in Mexico, says he's the victim of a coup and wants to run in the elections. Añez says he's barred, but his MAS political party still controls both houses of congress and has to be a partner for any smooth transition. Some compromise is necessary, but things don't seem to be going that way.


Impeachment and 2020 Democratic primaries: As the Trump impeachment process grinds on, a potential problem is emerging for some Democratic presidential candidates. If the House impeaches President Trump, there will be a trial in the Senate. If that trial is held in January/February, it will force Democratic senators to be in Washington rather than on the campaign trail engaging voters directly. That's potential bad news for presidential-hopeful Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker—and might be good news for rival candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, who won't be chained to Washington. But do Republicans really want to help Biden beat Warren and Sanders, both of whom might be easier for Trump to beat? We'll be watching to see how Democrats in the House and Senate try to manage this problem.

US walks out on South Korea: Talks on the cost of basing US troops in South Korea ended abruptly Tuesday when the Americans walked out of the meeting, accusing Seoul of falling short of "fair and equitable burden sharing." Washington had demanded a five-fold yearly increase (to $5 billion) in Seoul's contribution to maintaining 28,500 American troops on the Korean peninsula. Earlier this year, Seoul agreed to pay $890 million, more than 40 percent of the day-to-day expenses of keeping US troops in the area. It also paid more than 90 percent of the hefty cost of relocating the US' main Korean base, and buys billions of dollars worth of US arms. Until now, US presidents have seen Washington's security commitments to Seoul — which date back to the 1950s when the Korean War ended without a peace treaty — as mutually beneficial: South Korea gets protection from the North, while the US gets to safeguard its security and economic interests in East Asia. Will President Trump's hardline approach to South Korea work? And will it set an enduring precedent? We're watching because similar talks on cost-sharing with Japan, Germany, and NATO are slated for next year.

What We're Ignoring

Dog days in Turkmenistan: Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the eccentric autocrat who runs the gas-rich Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, has long adored his country's renowned horse breeds (even when he's falling off of them.) But now he is pivoting to a different point on the mammalian map: dog. In particular, the Alabai, a hardy little sheepdog that has been part of Turkmenistan's traditionally nomadic society for thousands of years. Recently, he's been writing books and poems about the dogs, and now he plans to build a 50-foot tall statue of one in the capital as a symbol of national unity. We are ignoring this because we're spoiled by the last Turkmen president's penchant for building 25-story gold plated statues of himself that rotated to face the sun. Next to that, this pup stuff doesn't stack up.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?

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