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What We're Watching: Afghanistan's inaugurations,Taiwan vs China, Italy under quarantine

What We're Watching: Afghanistan's inaugurations,Taiwan vs China, Italy under quarantine

Afghanistan's parallel inaugurations – Afghani President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in for a second term Monday, but his political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's Chief Executive, refused to recognize the inauguration and held his own concurrent swearing-in ceremony. Back in September, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission announced that Ghani had won the election, but technical issues that delayed preliminary results, as well as allegations of fraud, prompted Abdullah to reject the outcome and proclaim himself the winner. This deepening political crisis threatens to plunge that country into chaos just days after the US and the Taliban signed a deal on the withdrawal of US-led international forces after 18 years of conflict. Whoever heads the Afghan government will have to oversee complicated intra-Afghan negotiations and a contentious prisoner exchange – as of now, we don't know who that will be.


Taiwan vs China – Two months ago, Taiwan's presidential election pitted a party that promised a harsher policy toward China against a party that pledged a friendlier one. The more hardline candidate, incumbent Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, won. The losing party, the Kuomintang (KMT), has announced that it too will adopt a somewhat tougher approach to relations with Beijing. In particular, the KMT, Taiwan's dominant political party for 50 years before falling out of favor, has renounced its former support for the so-called "1992 consensus," a policy which declared that China and Taiwan are part of "One China." That deliberately ambiguous phrase has allowed Beijing and Taipei to develop commercial links while avoiding hostilities. Now, both of Taiwan's major political parties appear to have rejected it, heightening tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

Italy under quarantine – Europe's third-biggest economy has imposed the toughest measures taken by any Western democracy to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), locking down the entire country – 60 million people – in one of the most populated countries in Europe. The move isn't sitting well with some locals: one outraged mayor shot a home video in his t-shirt expressing frustration that he had not been consulted over the decision. European neighbors will be watching to see if the Italian government's strategy works. We're watching to see if the crisis forces the country's fractious ruling coalition to work together more effectively, winning new public support ahead of the next national election, or whether it will frustrate voters and further energize populists who want to buck EU budget rules and keep migrants out of the country.

What We're Ignoring

Venezuela's democracy on fire, literally – A fire has reportedly destroyed some 50,000 voting machines stored in a warehouse in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, casting doubt on the country's ability to hold parliamentary elections later this year. There isn't enough evidence to determine whether the fire was accidental or somebody's act of sabotage, but accusations and hard evidence of past electoral cheating by Nicolas Maduro's government suggest the machines would not have been used for free and fair elections anyway.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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How was it that after decades of infighting, European nations were able to come together so quickly on an economic pandemic relief package? "I'm tempted to say because of COVID-19…because the triggering factor for the crisis was not the banks…not the bad behavior of some policy-makers somewhere in the region. It was actually this teeny tiny little virus..." European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde tells Ian Bremmer how a microscopic virus spurred the greatest show of international unity in years.


Watch the episode: Christine Lagarde, Leading Europe's United Economic Pandemic Response

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