What We're Watching: Africa desperate for vaccines, US-EU truce on airplanes, ICC probes Duterte

Vials labelled "Astra Zeneca COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed South Africa flag, in this illustration photo taken March 14, 2021.

Africa is running out of vaccines: Africa has received fewer vaccines than any other continent, and the results are now showing. Faced with a third wave of infection, many African countries say that cases are soaring and that vaccine deliveries from the WHO-managed COVAX facility remain sluggish, in large part because of shortages from Indian drug manufacturers. South Africa, Namibia, and Uganda say that their healthcare systems are inundated with COVID cases; ICU beds are scarce, and COVID patients are dying while waiting for hospital beds. To date, just 0.6 percent of Africa's 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated, and new variants are spreading, making containment across the continent even harder. (Cases in the South African province of Gauteng, home to the hubs of Johannesburg and Pretoria, where South Africa's more transmissible COVID strain has run rampant, have doubled over the past week, and doctors are bracing for a surge in deaths.) Meanwhile, the G7 countries agreed this week to send 1 billion COVID doses to poor countries, but experts warn that these may not arrive in Africa before most states' supplies run dry.


US and EU agree to truce on Boeing-Airbus row: After 17 years of quarreling, the US and the EU have agreed to put their differences aside in the ongoing saga over subsidies for Boeing and Airbus, their respective aerospace champions. In 2019, the World Trade Organization found that Brussels had illegally been providing subsidies to Airbus, essentially clearing the way for Washington to slap billions of dollars' worth of tariffs on EU products. Shortly after, the WTO found that Washington was doing the same thing for Boeing, violating international trade regulations and leading Brussels to threaten tariffs on US exports. In reaching this truce on the sidelines of the recent G7 summit, US President Joe Biden and EU representatives have agreed to suspend punishing tariffs — championed by former US President Donald Trump — worth a collective $11.5 billion a year on a range of products like whiskey, cheese, spirits, and tractors. But why now? President Biden has made it abundantly clear that he wants to get the Europeans on side in an increasingly bitter fight with China over a range of economic, human rights and tech abuses. The Biden administration also says that this move will help stabilize manufacturing jobs in aerospace and other sectors, reflecting its "foreign policy for the American middle class."

ICC to probe Duterte's drug war: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has asked permission to launch a full investigation of alleged crimes against humanity committed during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs from 2016 to 2019. Duterte's crackdown on drug traffickers has killed about 6,000 people, according to official police data, though local human-rights groups say the real figure is much higher. As expected, the Philippine government blasted the Hague's decision and vowed not to cooperate with the probe. In fact, Manila withdrew from the ICC in March 2019 in response to its preliminary investigation into the drug war. Duterte himself has kept quiet so far, but the threat of a full ICC probe won't draw any sign of remorse for his war on drugs, the signature campaign promise that helped elect him five years ago. Indeed, these days the Philippine president is more focused on choosing whom he'll endorse to run for the top job in next year's elections, and whether he'll be on the ballot as a vice-presidential candidate.

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On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Listen: A deep dive down the bottle to examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

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A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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