What We're Watching: Argentina's abortion bill, Spain's vaccine registry, Burkina Faso's security push

n the photo taken on December 10, 2020, mobilization of women in front of the Congress where the approval in Deputies of the legalization and decriminalization of abortion in Argentina was voted.

Argentina's abortion debate: Argentina's Senate is set to vote on a landmark abortion bill that would allow elective abortions up to 14 weeks gestation, a major shift in the predominantly Catholic and socially conservative country. The abortion bill already passed the lower house of Congress (131 to 117 votes) because the center-left party of President Alberto Fernández, who backs the bill, holds a majority coalition. It's now waiting to be voted on in Argentina's upper house in what's expected to be a nail-biter, with several politicians remaining mum about how they intend to vote. Abortion is a flashpoint in Argentina, home to Pope Francis who has repudiated the bill, and if the law were to pass, the country would be one of just few Latin American countries to authorize elective abortions outside of cases of rape or if the mother's life is at risk. If there's a tie in the Senate — which some analysts anticipate — it will be up to Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has flip-flopped on the abortion issue during her long political career, to cast the deciding vote. Abortion rights activists, meanwhile, are fired up, hoping that if the bill passes in Argentina, the cultural effects could reverberate throughout the region.


Spain's vaccine refusal database: Spain plans to register all people who turn down the opportunity to get a coronavirus vaccine when it is offered to them. The information won't be publicly disclosed nor shared with employers, but it will be sent to European Union health officials. The announcement came as a surprise for Brussels, which has yet to explain what it'll do with the data given the EU's robust data privacy laws, or whether it's open to a similar EU-wide database. Vaccination is not mandatory but strongly encouraged by authorities in Spain, which this week surpassed 50,000 COVID-19 deaths and has the world's second highest per capita mortality rate. As vaccines have just started being rolled out across the entire EU, we're watching to see whether other member states will set up their own vaccine refusal registries to not only deter skeptics but also provide more accurate information about how many people actually get inoculated.

Burkina Faso's security push: At his inauguration ceremony on Monday, Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore pledged to make security in the West African country a political priority amid ongoing jihadist violence that's caused more than 850,000 people to flee their homes in recent years. Kabore, who will now serve his second term, said he wants to instill "stability and security" to Burkina Faso, where swaths of the country have been taken over by jihadist groups. But it's not just vigilantes and terrorist groups (linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State) that have wreaked havoc on the country of 21 million people in recent years: a New York Times expose published this past summer revealed that trigger-happy soldiers in Burkina Faso's army kill as many civilians as jihadists do (it doesn't help that the government has passed draconian legislation banning journalists from reporting on anything that could "demoralize" the armed forces). Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the Sahel region, has been plagued by political corruption and human rights violations from the top down – and lacks the political and institutional strength to fend off a violent insurgency that spilled over from neighboring Mali in recent years, tormenting the entire Sahel.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

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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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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