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What We're Watching: China charges Aussie journo, Palestinian election talks, WHO debunks COVID myths

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Australian journalist charged in China: Australian journalist Cheng Lei was detained last August in China for allegedly passing state secrets to foreign actors. Now, the reporter — who worked for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN when she was arrested — has been formally charged with a national security crime, though Beijing has unsurprisingly remained mum on the details. Her family (including two young children in Melbourne) say that Lei is innocent, while the Australian government has pleaded with Beijing to ensure due process. But Canberra's ability to lobby for Lei's release is surely hampered by its increasingly fraught relations with Beijing: Australia has criticized Beijing's meddling in Australia's internal government affairs, its spying activities, and called for a probe into China's alleged COVID coverup — prompting China to hit back with a series of devastating tariffs on Australian goods. The Chinese government has also targeted Australian journalists, and the last two Aussie reporters in mainland China recently fled at Canberra's urging. For now, Lei remains behind bars. Is the Australian government powerless to respond?


Palestinian election summit: Palestinian leaders kicked off a two-day summit in Cairo to discuss upcoming legislative (May 22) and presidential (July 31) elections, the first time Palestinians will head to the polls in 15 years. The Egyptian-brokered talks between longtime Palestinian foes — Fatah, which governs the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, the militant group that holds power in the Gaza Strip — aim to iron out procedural arrangements for the upcoming votes, including whose security forces will guard polling stations and which judicial body will resolve disputes. Palestinians have not held elections since 2006, when Hamas — designated a terror group by the US and the EU — won by a significant margin, leading to a shaky unity government and bloody power battle that saw Hamas seize control of the Strip. Fatah was eventually relegated to the West Bank, where President Mahmoud Abbas has since led a 15-year "emergency government." We're watching to see whether the polls will even take place at all, since previous elections have been scheduled only to be later rejected by those at the top.

WHO ends COVID probe in China: Wrapping up a hard-fought visit to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, a team of World Health Organization experts announced Tuesday that it's "extremely unlikely" that COVID leaked from a lab. That initial conclusion poured cold water on the conspiracy theory — promoted at the onset of the pandemic by former US President Donald Trump — that the virus was either engineered by or accidentally released from a Chinese lab, a claim most scientists have long dismissed. The WHO team said it is "most likely" the virus was transmitted to humans from an animal at a wet market, but possible it came from a different source, like from imported frozen food products, for instance. WHO says their probe is ongoing, but the inconclusive findings so far are surely a relief for Beijing, which has often pushed unscientific alternative theories that the coronavirus did not originate in China. We'll be keeping an eye on whether the full investigation comes out with any definitive findings, and if other countries will even trust the probe given perceptions of the WHO being too cozy with China.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Now that millions of high-priority Americans have been vaccinated, many people in low-risk groups are starting to ask the same question: when's my turn? Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, has an answer, but probably not the one they're hoping for: "It probably won't be until May or June before we can at least start to get the normal non-prioritized person vaccinated." On GZERO World, Dr. Fauci also addresses another burning question: why aren't schools reopening faster? And while Dr. Fauci acknowledges that reopening schools must be a top priority, he has no quick fixes there, either. In fact, that's kind of a theme of the interview.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Dr. Fauci's Pandemic Prognosis

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

I thought I would talk today, I haven't spoken much about former President Trump since he's no longer president and I intend to continue that practice. But given this weekend and the big speech at CPAC and the fact that in the straw poll, Trump won and won by a long margin. I mean, DeSantis came in number two, but he's the Governor of Florida, CPAC was in Orlando, so that's a home court bias. In reality, it's Trump's party. And I think given all of that, it's worth spending a little bit of time reflecting on what that means, how I think about these things.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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