What We're Watching: Bolivia back on the brink

What We're Watching: Bolivia back on the brink

The end of the interim in Bolivia? – Mere months after taking over as Bolivia's interim president, Jeanine Áñez has decided that "interim" isn't quite permanent enough, and she now wants to run for president in elections set for May 3. Áñez is an outspoken conservative who took over in October when mass protests over election fraud prompted the military to oust the long-serving left-populist Evo Morales. She says she is just trying to unify a fractious conservative ticket that can beat the candidate backed by Morales' party. (Morales himself is barred from running.) Her supporters say she has the right to run just like anyone else. But critics say that after promising that she would serve only as a caretaker president, Áñez's decision taints the legitimacy of an election meant to be a clean slate reset after the unrest last fall. We are watching closely to see if her move sparks fresh unrest in an already deeply polarized country.


A broken ceasefire in Libya – A week after world leaders gathered in Berlin to broker a cease-fire in the Libyan civil war, intense clashes have resumed between two rival factions, the UN-backed Government of National Accord that governs Tripoli, and a rival faction led by general Khalifa Haftar. The Berlin conference sought to stop external meddling and arms supplies, but in recent days, foreign arms shipments have continued to arrive in Libya, providing militants with advanced weapons, armored vehicles, and even foreign fighters. Haftar's LNA has major backing from the United Arab Emirates, along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Meanwhile, Turkey backs the Tripoli-based government and has deployed troops there. Prospects for peace in the war-torn, oil-rich country look as remote as ever.

The curious case of "Ayatollah Mike" – On Monday, a US Air Force plane crashed in Afghanistan. That's all we really know for sure, but the rumor mill is spinning fast and furious. The Taliban claims that it shot the craft out of the sky and that it was packed with CIA operatives. Iranian media, for their part, are claiming that one of the officials aboard was CIA bigwig Michael D'Andrea, the intelligence officer known as "Ayatollah Mike," who oversees the agency's work on Iran and Afghanistan. The sense of the coverage is that this was a response to the US killing of its top general Qassim Suleimani earlier this month, which D'Andrea would have overseen. There are very, very few people in the world who know what really happened. We're watching to see if and how this unfolds further and what effect it has on US-Iran tensions.

What We're Ignoring

Tasteless beers – The infamous Mexican drug lord El Chapo is not only behind bars, now he's in them too. His daughter has launched a craft beer named after him, as part of her El Chapo 701 clothing brand, which cashes in on the murderous billionaire drug trafficker's image and legacy. (We note that Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's kids already tried this trick years ago.) Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a new beer brand that uses Nazi-style imagery on its labels was flying off the shelves in a town in eastern Germany, prompting a police investigation into illegal use of banned Third Reich symbols. We'll pass on both of these brews, if it's all the same with you.

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The supply chain mess is hitting all of us. Inflation is now the highest it's been in over 30 years.

The costs of food, gas and housing are going through the roof. What's more, almost everything made outside of America is now in short supply — like semiconductors for our cars.

Why is this happening? A lot of it has to do with the pandemic. Asian factories had to shut down or thought there would be less demand for their stuff. So did shipping companies. But then online shopping surged, and now there's a lot of pent-up demand to spend all the cash we saved during COVID.

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The economic consequences of high inflation are already bad enough.

But for Larry Summers, sometimes the psychological trauma that comes with it can do even more damage to a society.

"A society where inflation is accelerating is a society that feels out of control."

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Should you believe the hype(rsonic)?

Over the past few months, US officials have become increasingly alarmed about a new type of killing machines called "hypersonic weapons."

The top US General, Mark Milley, said that China's successful test of an advanced hypersonic weapon earlier this year was "very close" to a "Sputnik moment" – referring to the Soviet Union's surprise launch of the world's first artificial satellite in 1957, which raised fears that the US was lagging behind a formidable technological rival.

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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:

What is Facebook planning with the metaverse?

Well, my sense is that Facebook mostly prefers a virtual reality over the actual situation the company is in, with overwhelming criticism about the many harms to people it is causing all over the world. The metaverse at launch would be added to a number of services and experiences online in a more virtual and augmented reality setting. Think about what the gaming sector has done, but now, also, other big tech firms are jumping on the bandwagon. The thing to remember is that the user experience would be more immersive.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why did President Biden renominate Jay Powell to be the chairman of the Fed, and who's his No.2, Lael Brainard?

Well, Powell by all accounts has done a pretty good job of managing the Fed through the coronavirus pandemic. He dusted off the playbook, first pioneered by Chairman Bernanke during the financial crisis, and he's largely continued the relatively easy monetary policy of his predecessor at the Fed, now Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. With inflation growing the way it has over the last several months, Biden now owns the policies of the Fed and is essentially endorsing what Powell has been doing and giving Powell the political cover to continue to keep rates low for longer, or as many people expect, raise them slightly over the next 12 months in order to fight inflation.

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When Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the "1619 Project" tweeted: "In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black lives. This is the legacy of 1619." In an upcoming interview with Ian Bremmer, she explains why she saw the verdict as a consequence of this country's long history of double standards when it comes to racial justice. "The fact that we own more guns in this country than any other country is certainly a legacy of 1619" Hannah-Jones says. "This idea that white Americans can patrol, that they have the right to open carry, this is not something that Black Americans can engage in, in the same way." Watch her full conversation with Ian Bremmer in an upcoming episode of GZERO World.

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Peng Shuai's public appearance, El Salvador's "Bitcoin City," and Americans' Thanksgiving celebrations.

Why has China silenced its famous tennis player, Peng Shuai?

Well, they haven't completely silenced her in the sense that the head of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee with Beijing Olympics coming up, basically told the Chinese government, "hey, what is the absolute minimum that you can do so that we can get Beijing Olympics back on track?" And they did the absolute minimum, which was a half an hour phone call with her that felt like kind of a hostage phone call. But nonetheless, she says that she is fine and is private and doesn't want to talk about the fact that she had accused the former Vice Premier of sexually assaulting her. That is a fairly heady charge. It was clear, going to get a lot of headlines in the run-up to the Olympics. And she wasn't heard from after that. So big problem for the Chinese in the run-up to the Olympics.

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How did we get to today's supply chain mess?

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