What We're Watching: Biden's move in Yemen, Twitter's reversal in India, Arab world's grim economic prospects

A young Yemeni fighter shouldering a weapon smiles at the camera near Marib, Yemen October 16, 2015. Marib is a city that is heavily armed even by the standards of Yemen, where the ready availability of weapons helped start civil war and is now preventing anyone coming out on top. Yemenis often say there are three guns for every person, a boast that has become an urgent concern in a country where the United Nations says the humanitarian situation is "critical".

Biden on Yemen: In 2015, the Saudi military began an offensive and air campaign against Houthi rebels who had plunged Yemen into civil war and were launching missiles into Saudi Arabia. US President Barack Obama supported the move, though some in his administration came to regret that decision as evidence mounted that Saudi bombs (many of them made in America) were killing large numbers of Yemeni civilians and exacerbating what the UN has dubbed the world's worst humanitarian crisis. President Donald Trump then went all-in with the Saudis, and in 2019, he vetoed a bid by Congress to end US support for Saudi bombing. Now, President Joe Biden fulfilled a campaign promise to halt US support and will send an envoy to Yemen to broker talks aimed at ending the conflict. For now, Yemen remains plagued with hunger, poverty, and atrocities on all sides.


Twitter's reversed reversal in India?: Just days after the Indian government clapped back at pop star Rihanna and activist Greta Thunberg over their tweets supporting Indian farmers who are protesting against new agriculture laws, the social media giant Twitter itself has been drawn directly into the controversy. When some of the farmers and their supporters began tweeting with the hashtag #modiplanningfarmersgenocide, public officials demanded that Twitter block the accounts. Twitter complied. In response, outraged free-speech advocates demanded that Twitter reverse that decision. Twitter complied with that too. Now India's government wants Twitter to reverse its reversal. Promote free speech or police incendiary misinformation: what's a social media behemoth to do these days?

Arab world's grim economic future: A top official from the International Monetary Fund has warned [paywall] that Arab countries face a "lost decade" if they don't invest in technology and make key economic reforms to curb the pandemic's long-term economic impacts on the region. In the short term, it's time to spend big on health and COVID vaccines. However, to address long-term problems such as declining oil and gas revenues, ballooning debt and sky-high youth unemployment, the IMF says Arab leaders need to rethink how their governments raise money — including from higher taxes — and cut subsidies that burden state coffers when oil prices are low. With the GDP of the Middle East and North Africa expected to decline a region-wide 3.8 percent in 2020, experts are urging governments to create the fiscal space they'll need to breathe oxygen into their economies in the near future.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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