What We're Watching: Australia-China row escalates, COVAX falling behind, Mexico's crackdown on "foreign agents"

Side-by-side images of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Australia takes China to the WTO: Amid a deepening diplomatic and trade dispute with China, Australia has upped the ante by taking its case to the World Trade Organization to probe what it calls China's "discriminatory [trade] actions." The complaint relates to Beijing's decision to slap an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley, which has been pummeling Australian growers and producers. (China accuses Australia of "dumping" barley at a discounted rate; Australia says that's nonsense.) Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sparred with Beijing over a range of issues, such as human rights, national security, and telecommunications. But what irked the Chinese the most was when Australia led the charge in calling for a global investigation into China's handling of the pandemic earlier this year, which prompted Beijing to slap tariffs on a host of Australian goods including wine, beef, barley, and coal that threaten about $20 billion worth of Australian exports. While the WTO filing is mostly symbolic, and the dispute could take years to adjudicate, the move is a significant escalation — and a risky one for Australia, which relies on China for 30 percent of its annual exports.


COVAX coming up short: Past pandemics have created a scramble for vaccines and relief supplies, and people in poor countries are often the last to get help. Created by the World Health Organization, the vaccines alliance GAVI, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the COVAX project was designed to provide global equal access to vaccines as they are developed. Unfortunately, lack of adequate international support is crippling its chances of success. Short on funding, COVAX hasn't yet come close to locking up the 2 billion doses it hopes to provide by the end of next year. According to Arnaud Bernaert, who heads global health for the World Economic Forum, about 75 percent of the 12 billion doses expected to be produced globally by the end of 2021 have already been purchased by wealthy countries. Beyond the question of fairness, if COVID lingers in the developing world well into next year, it will continue to pose risks of again crossing borders.

Mexico targets US Drug Enforcement Agency : Mexico's parliament has passed a new law that aims to curtail the activities of foreign law enforcement agents operating in the country. Although it doesn't mention the US Drug Enforcement Administration by name, the law is viewed as a sharp rebuke of the DEA, active in Mexico for decades but often criticized for not sharing information with local security forces. DEA agents will now be required to share their findings with the Mexican government. What's more, this development also means that American agents will no longer have immunity from prosecution. The move — backed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO — comes amid strained US-Mexico ties over the recent high-profile arrest of former Mexican defense chief Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda at Los Angeles airport over alleged drug charges. (Though the general was soon released after corruption and drug charges were dropped when AMLO threatened to expel all DEA agents from Mexico.) As the Mexicans play hardball, we're watching to see how the Americans might react.

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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.

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