What We're Watching: Afghan peace talks, Israel-Bahrain normalize ties, Peruvian president impeached

Taliban delegates shake hands during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar

Afghanistan peace talks kick off: Months of political wrangling and impasse dashed hopes of reconciliation in Afghanistan, but now expectations have risen again after historic intra-Afghan peace talks kicked off Saturday in Doha, the Qatari capital. These direct negotiations — the parameters of which were set out by the Taliban and the US government earlier this year — symbolize the first time the Afghan government and the Taliban are sitting down face-to-face since the US invasion two decades ago, in the hopes of establishing a power-sharing arrangement to end decades of violence. The Taliban, which subscribe to an extreme Islamic political ideology, have long deemed the US-bolstered Afghan government as illegitimate. But now, in showing a willingness to engage directly, the Taliban are offering the Afghan people — 90 percent of whom live below the poverty line — a (small) glimmer of home regarding the prospect of reconciliation. Still, divisions persist between the two sides on major issues including the role of religion in society, women and minority rights, and ongoing insurgent violence. Complicating matters further, this all comes as the Trump administration says it will withdraw thousands of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by November.


Israel, Bahrain establish diplomatic ties: After weeks of speculation following the historic peace deal signed between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain has followed suit in normalizing ties with the Jewish state. The Israel-Bahrain deal, also brokered by the Trump administration, formalizes relations between the two sides that have been warming behind closed doors for decades over mutual enmity towards Iran as well as a desire to deepen trade ties and security cooperation. It's also a sign, analysts say, of Bahrain's attempt to increasingly endear itself to Washington amid intensifying regional tumult. (Bahrain was one of only a few countries that expressed support for the Trump administration's Middle East peace proposal earlier this year, which most international players rejected as being overly deferential to Israel, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "green light" to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.) It's widely believed that neither the UAE nor Bahrain would have gone ahead with normalization without the go-ahead from the "mother hen" Saudi Arabia — yet another sign, they say, that compromise on the Palestinian issue is no longer a precondition for the Arab world embracing Israel.

Peruvian president impeached: Perú's parliament has approved impeachment proceedings against President Martín Vizcarra for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. The centrist Vizcarra — who swept into power in 2018 on an anti-corruption agenda — denies the accusation of "moral incapacity" despite leaked audio recordings in which he appears to suggest lying about his hiring of an obscure singer for $49,500 to deliver "pro-government motivational talks." The (bizarre) bombshell revelation has provoked a public outcry in pandemic-stricken Perú, the country now with the highest COVID-19 death rate per capita in the world. Perú's economy is also struggling to recover from the three-month shutdown of the mining sector due to the coronavirus, which saw its quarterly GDP plummet by more than 40 percent in June. Will the Peruvian leader survive impeachment? Sixty-five out of 130 lawmakers voted in favor on Friday, but the opposition parties altogether hold 95 seats — more than the 87 votes needed to remove Vizcarra.

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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.

Watch more PUPPET REGIME!

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