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What We're Watching: Brussels vs Belarus, South Africa's COVID corruption, a fresh fix for the WHO?

What We're Watching: Brussels vs Belarus, South Africa's COVID corruption, a fresh fix for the WHO?

The EU's Belarus problem: While Belarus' strongman president Alexander Lukashenko vowed on Wednesday to crack down on the thousands of Belarusians still protesting against the country's recently-rigged elections, EU member states were convening for an emergency session on the country's deepening crisis. So far, the European Commission has pledged 53 million euros to support Belarusians, including two-million going towards those wounded in the recent government crackdown, as well as 1 million aimed at bolstering an independent media that has been under assault for decades. Most of the funds will go towards the country's post-pandemic economic recovery. However, to date, the EU has not explicitly called for Lukashenko to step aside and has failed to reach a consensus on whether to hit Minsk with sanctions. That's because some member states, such as Hungary, are friendly with Lukashenko, and have called for more dialogue with Minsk, rather than punitive measures. But power brokers in Brussels, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, have made it clear that swift action must be taken to protect the Belarusian people, and to stave off a potential Russian intervention in the crisis by Lukashenko's longtime frenemy Vladimir Putin (i.e. Ukraine 2.0).


South Africa's COVID corruption probe: South African special investigators allege that government institutions, including the capital city's health department, cut crooked deals for coronavirus-related tenders — including for PPE procurement, quarantine sites and disinfectant equipment — totaling a whopping $290 million. It's the latest challenge for President Cyril Ramaphosa who took over as head of the African National Congress party (ANC) in 2018 after the ouster of the party's disgraced former leader Jacob Zuma. At the time, Ramaphosa pledged to root out corruption, bring "ethics into politics," and revive the country's battered economy, but attempts at reform have so far proven elusive, largely because of dysfunction and competing factions within the ANC itself.

A different way to fix the WHO: US President Donald Trump isn't the only one who thinks the World Health Organization is too weak, poorly funded, and beholden to national interests to do its job well — it turns out France and Germany agree with him. But unlike Trump, who is walking out on the organization, Paris and Berlin are proposing massive reforms that would give it more money and stronger oversight powers, according to a Reuter's exclusive. The details of the proposal are yet to be ironed out ahead of discussions as soon as next month. We're watching to see three things. First, how do Germany and France plan to get countries to pony up more dough in the middle of a global recession? Can they really give the WHO more muscle to force member states to do things that are in the interest of global public health? And lastly, are the skeptical Americans and the Chinese going to agree?

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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10: Violent protests against new coronavirus restrictions have erupted in at least 10 regions in the Netherlands, which recently imposed the country's first nationwide curfew since World War Two. Protesters clashed with police and looted stores — and police say that a far-right anti-immigrant group has taken advantage of the discontent to exacerbate tensions.

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One result of the law enforcement crackdown on pro-Trump Capitol rioters following the events of January 6 is that many right-wing extremists have left public social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for encrypted apps like Telegram and Signal. But renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher isn't all that concerned. "The white supremacist stuff, it's like mold. They thrived in the light, actually." Now that these groups no longer have such public platforms, their recruiting power, Swisher argues, will be greatly diminished. Plus, she points out, they were already on those encrypted apps to begin with. Swisher's conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no doubt that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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