What We're Watching: British borders, Russian Muslims, and missing weapons

What We're Watching: British borders, Russian Muslims, and missing weapons

Britain's immigration shake up — The British government has announced a shake-up to its immigration rules that will cut visas for low-skilled workers and impose new immigration criteria, including fluency in English. The new rules, which will take effect next January, are meant to lower immigration overall, and they will hit particularly hard for the large number of eastern European immigrants who work in sectors like old age care, hospitality, and construction. This is a big reversal for Britain, which in 2004 was one of just three EU member states to open its labor markets to citizens of the former Communist countries that had recently joined the bloc. Boris Johnson's Conservative Party says the new rules will prioritize people with skills over a boundless supply of "cheap labor." But critics point out that the British economy is currently at full employment, and that migrants are needed to fill vacancies that Britons won't.


Russia vs Tatars — In 1992, from the ashes of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Tatarstan voted for independence from Russia. Tatars, almost all of whom are Muslim, are Russia's second largest ethnic group, and the capital of their republic is Kazan, a city of 1.2 million about 500 miles east of Moscow. Though Russia refused to let Tatarstan go, then-President Boris Yeltsin cut a deal in 1994 that gave Tatars exclusive rights to their own (abundant) natural resources, the ability to collect their own taxes, and protections for their language and culture. But beginning two years ago, protections for the Tatar language have been stripped away, presumably to save ethnic Russians the trouble of having to study it. What was once a required six hours of Tatar language per school week has been scaled back to two weeks of optional coursework. Activists protesting these changes have been harassed, fined and, in some cases, jailed.

The Pentagon's missing receipts — About $715 million worth of US military equipment earmarked for anti-ISIS groups in Syria between 2017 and 2018 is simply unaccounted for, according to a new Pentagon audit. The report says that US military personnel who were supposed to funnel the equipment to Syrian groups via Kuwait didn't keep proper records of what was disbursed or to whom. More alarmingly, it warns that officials "left thousands of…weapons and sensitive equipment items vulnerable to loss or theft." This isn't the first time this has happened: the US also doesn't know the fate of about 750,000 guns meant for Iraqi and Afghan enforcement, and in 2017 Amnesty International reported up to $1 billion in arms destined for Iraqi and Kuwaiti forces had gone missing.

What We're Ignoring

China's duck army – An army of 100,000 ducks is mustering in western China to combat a swarm of locusts approaching the country from the border with India and Pakistan, according to Chinese state media. The video is irresistible, but we're ignoring this story because it's not the first time China has had to call in its "air force" to deal with the locust threat. Twenty years ago, China drafted 700,000 ducks and chickens to fight a similar invasion.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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