What We're Watching: A year since George Floyd, G7 corporate tax, Samoa's political crisis

A man recites spoken word poetry at a makeshift memorial honoring George Floyd, at the spot where he was taken into custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., June 1, 2020.

Marking a year since George Floyd's murder: May 25 marks one year since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which galvanized the biggest anti-racism movement in America in generations – and inspired a global reckoning with racial inequality and policing in dozens of countries around the world. Since then, former police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with Floyd's murder, a historic development after decades of near-total impunity for police who use excessive force against Black Americans. But many say that Chauvin's' conviction is not enough and are calling for the passage of broad police reform legislation in the US Congress. While the House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Police Reform Act, the bill in its current form doesn't appear to have sufficient support to pass in the Senate. One of the biggest sticking points in the bill is over "qualified immunity," which protects government officials and law enforcement from being held personally liable for constitutional violations. Republicans oppose this structural reform, but even if they come to an agreement in the Senate, progressive House Democrats say they will not accept a watered-down version that does not eliminate this provision in at least some instances. Meanwhile, President Biden will host the Floyd family at the White House on Tuesday.


G7 to finalize global corporate tax: The G7 – a group of large economies including the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan – is close to finalizing global taxation rules for the world's largest companies. For years, big European nations, frustrated with American behemoths like Starbucks, Amazon, and Google that flood their markets with products yet pay almost nothing back to their governments, have been pushing for a similar global corporate tax rate, something the US has long resisted. But as countering domestic tax avoidance has emerged as a Biden administration priority, Washington is now on board with the idea. The US has called for a 15 percent minimum global tax, lower than the 21 percent backed by several European states. While the G7 agreement would not be globally enforceable, it would be a powerful first step in paving the way to formalization of a global minimum tax rate currently being negotiated in Paris at the OECD, an organization made up of 37 advanced economies. However, while the G7 could finalize a deal for taxing big corporations in the next few weeks, it could still take many months before the broader G20, which is running the talks in Paris, seals a deal, given resistance from countries with low corporate tax rates like Ireland, which has greatly benefited from operating as a tax haven for multinationals to protect their profits.

Is a coup happening in Samoa? The Pacific Island nation of Samoa held elections in early April, and things have been a mess since. The results gave a razor thin, one-seat majority to the Faith in the One True God (FAST) party, which would have ended nearly four decades of rule by the governing Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP). But just before FAST leader Fiame Naomi Mata'afa was set to be sworn in on Monday — as Samoa's first female prime minister, no less — the HRPP government cancelled the required parliamentary session, in a move that the Supreme Court swiftly called "unlawful." Undaunted, FAST held its own swearing-in ceremony for Mata'afa, in a tent. But since that was not done in accordance with the constitution, it's not clear who really runs the country now or what consequences the current PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi may face for flouting the country's highest court. This is the first major constitutional crisis of its kind since Samoa gained independence from New Zealand in 1962.

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The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

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Governments around the world are offering creative incentives for getting a jab.

If you happen to live in New York and are one of the city’s 18% of unvaccinated residents, now might be a good time to go get jabbed. But not just because of omicron.

In late December, now former NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the city would start offering gift cards, free roller coaster rides on Coney Island and trips to the Statue of Liberty to those who get their shots. And it’s not just the Big Apple.

As infections jump, vaccination incentive programs have been brought back around the world. Officials in vaccine-hesitant Missouri have earmarked $11 million dollars for gift cards worth $100. Vermont is awarding schools with per-pupil bonuses if they hit rates higher than 85%.

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What We’re Watching: China's problems, UAE vs Houthis, Nord Stream 2 split

China's mounting problems. Xi Jinping is not off to a good start in 2022. First, Chinese economic growth slowed down to 4 percent in the last quarter of 2021, almost a percentage point less than the previous period. While annual GDP was up 8.1 percent year-on-year, beating government expectations, the trend is worrying for the world’s second-largest economy. Second, annual population growth fell in 2021 to its lowest rate since 1949, when the ruling Communist Party took over. Although Xi probably saw this one coming, he's running out of ideas to encourage Chinese families to have more children — which the government needs in order to sustain growth and support the elderly over the long term. Third, and most immediate: the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics canceled ticket sales for domestic spectators — foreigners were not invited — as the more transmissible omicron variant has driven up COVID infections in China to the highest level since March 2020. It's only the latest sign that Xi's controversial zero-COVID policy is setting itself up for failure against omicron without mRNA vaccines. What'll it take for China to reverse course?

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Hard Numbers: Tongan volcano, Ukrainian cyberattack, Zemmour fined over hate speech, NK-China border reopens

100,000: We're still waiting for news from the Pacific nation of Tonga, two days after a massive underwater volcanic explosion triggered a tsunami that was felt thousands of miles away and sent a plume of ash 100,000 feet into the sky. With communications mostly cut off, Australia and New Zealand have sent airplanes to assess the damage.

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Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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Omicron is here. The bad news is that it's more contagious. The good news is that mRNA vaccines work against death and hospitalization. COVID may soon become endemic in some parts of the world.

Not in China, where Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low.

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January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

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