What We're Watching: Biden meets Boris, Iranian ships in the Atlantic, Argentinian president's mishap

U.S. President Joe Biden laughs while speaking with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during their meeting, ahead of the G7 summit, at Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain June 10, 2021

Biden hangs with Boris: On his first trip to Europe as US president, Joe Biden stopped first in the UK where he met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. While Biden is keen to reaffirm the close bond between the two countries, there are also some thorny issues on the agenda. The US president likely reiterated the importance of London safeguarding the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, and instructed Johnson to refrain from triggering a provision in the EU-UK post-Brexit trade agreement that would reestablish a land border separating Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Indeed, on this issue, Johnson will have to find a middle ground in managing the warming temperature in Northern Ireland, and placating the US president, who he desperately wants to agree to a juicy post-Brexit US-UK trade deal. Also on the agenda: coordination on climate change and ensuring the smooth and safe reopening of US-UK travel after 16 months of chaos.


What's Iran up to in the Atlantic? Earlier this week, POLITICO reported that two Iranian warships, possibly carrying weapons, were making their way across the Atlantic Ocean. They seem to be headed for Venezuela, which received oil shipments from Iran last year, skirting US economic sanctions on fuel-starved Caracas. Iran's provocative move, sending "destroyer" vessels charting across international seas, is likely to spook many nations. Venezuela's neighbors, like Colombia for example, will be nervous to see strongman President Nicolás Maduro flushed with weapons at a time when the two states have severed diplomatic relations. (Colombia recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate president.) The US, meanwhile, will not be pleased to see Iranian military vessels on its doorstep at a time when relations between Washington and Tehran are also extremely fraught. Some experts say this maneuver is performative, with Iran trying to flex its muscle after its biggest navy ship recently caught fire and sank near the Strait of Hormuz. Either way, there is little that the US or its allies can do right now to stop the ships advancing.

What We're Ignoring:

The Argentine president's literary and historical misunderstandings: "The Mexicans came from the Indians, the Brazilians came from the jungle, but we Argentinians came here on boats from Europe." Thus Argentine President Alberto Fernández's attempt to create a vibe with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at a presser earlier this week. But the observation, which he incorrectly attributed to Mexican poet Octavio Paz, managed to piss off people across the ideological spectrum. Right wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his son Eduardo (who are of Italian origin) bristled at the notion that they were from the jungle, while left wing Brazilians pointed out that more than half of Brazil's population identifies as descendants not of "the jungle" but of millions of slaves brought from Africa. And while it's true that the European immigration to Argentina was larger, as a percentage of the population than in Mexico or Brazil, almost a third of Argentines still claim indigenous blood. To top it off, literature buffs note that the actual quote attributed to Paz lands a bit differently: "The Mexicans descended from the Aztecs, the Peruvians descended from the Incas… the Argentines descended from boats." Fernandez has apologized.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

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For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

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UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

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UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

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