What We’re Watching: COVAX falls short, UK returns migrant boats to France, Guinea coup memes

What We’re Watching: COVAX falls short, UK returns migrant boats to France, Guinea coup memes

COVAX comes up short. Who's to blame? The World Health Organization revealed Wednesday that the COVAX scheme would fall half a billion doses short of its target to deliver 1.9 billion COVID vaccine doses to low- and middle-income ex countries by the end of 2021. Several factors have contributed to this shortfall, including India's decision to halt vaccine exports earlier this year amid a catastrophic COVID outbreak, and mixed messaging from the WHO and national governments about the safety and scaling of certain vaccines that disrupted COVAX's supply chain. The WHO has long taken aim at rich countries rolling out booster shots before developing states dole out first and second shots to their populations. But US President Joe Biden hit back in recent days saying that the argument of boosters vs donating shots is "a false choice," saying the US can, and has, done both. So far, COVAX has delivered 245 million doses, but just 0.4 percent of all jabs administered globally have been in low-income states.


UK clashes with France over migrant boats: Every summer, thousands of migrants trying to get to the UK cross the English Channel from France in rickety little dinghies. Amid particularly high numbers this year, British authorities have now approved plans to turn them away entirely. Stopping those migrants is now the "number one priority" for UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose boss, PM Boris Johnson, got to where he is in part by taking a hard line on immigration. But France says forcing people back out to sea without assistance would violate maritime law, while migrant-support groups worry that the practice could put migrants' lives at risk. The UK helps to fund French efforts to intercept departures, but London is now also threatening — somewhat puzzlingly — to withhold that money entirely unless Paris does a better job.

Guinea's deposed president goes viral: If getting ousted in a military coup wasn't bad enough, Guinea's toppled President Alpha Condé is now being mocked online. Hours after seizing power, soldiers posted an image of the 83-year-old Condé splayed out on a couch, barefoot and wearing jeans and an unbuttoned shirt, looking curiously chill while surrounded by heavily armed men in masks. Enter the meme: that picture has now inspired the Twitter-trending #alphacondechallenge, in which users all across West Africa are making and sharing hilarious parodies of the shot. A South African newspaper says the photoshopped images are a tribute to the African proverb: "If we don't laugh, we will surely cry". We're not sure if Condé himself is aware of his unwitting contribution to meme culture, but we do hope he has a smartphone to kill time while he's in the custody of Guinea's new junta.

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The German people have spoken. For the first time in over 70 years, the country's next government is all but assured to be a three-way coalition.

That coalition will probably be led by the center-left SPD, the most voted party, with the Greens and the pro-business FDP as junior partners. Less likely but still possible is a similar combination headed by the conservative CDU/CSU, which got its worst result ever. A grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU/CSU — the two parties that have dominated German federal politics since World War II — is only a fallback option if talks fail badly.

Both the Greens and especially the FDP have been in coalition governments before. But this time it's different because together they have the upper hand in negotiations with the big parties wooing them.

The problem is that the two smaller parties agree on little beyond legalizing weed, and even when they do, diverge on how to reach common goals. So, where does each stand on what separates them?

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Joe Biden has already cancelled more US student than any other president. But progressive Democrats want him to write off a lot more to reduce the racial wealth gap and help people recover better from COVID's economic ruin. Republicans are against all this because it would be unfair to current and future borrowers and to taxpayers footing the bill, not to mention subsidizing the rich.

Watch the episode: How the COVID-damaged economy surprised Adam Tooze

China and Canada's hostage diplomacy: In 2018, Canada arrested Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou because US authorities wanted to prosecute her for violating Iran sanctions. China responded by arresting two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what looked like a tit-for-tat. Over the weekend, Meng and the "Two Michaels" were all freed to return to their home countries as part of a deal evidently brokered by Washington. The exchange removes a major sore spot in US-China and Canada-China relations, though we're wondering if establishing the precedent of "hostage diplomacy" with China, especially in such a prominent case, is a good one for anyone involved.

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40: Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing 40 Indian farmer groups, took to the streets Monday to mark a year since the start of mass protests against new farming laws that they say help big agro-businesses at the expense of small farmers. The group has called for an industry-wide strike until the laws are withdrawn.

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Germany's conservative CDU/ CSU party and the center-left SPD have dominated German politics since the 1950s. For decades, they have vied for dominance and often served in a coalition together, and have been known as the "people's parties" – a reference to their perceived middle-of-the-road pragmatism and combined broad appeal to the majority of Germans. But that's all changing, as evidenced by the fact that both performed poorly in this week's election, shedding votes to the minority Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. We take a look at the CDU/CSU and SPD's respective electoral performance over the past 60 years.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to all of you and thought I'd talk a little bit about Germany and Europe. Because of course, we just had elections in Germany, 16 years of Angela Merkel's rule coming to an end - by far the strongest leader that Germany has seen post-war, Europe has seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And indeed in many ways, the world has seen in the 21st century. Xi Jinping, of course, runs a much bigger country and has consolidated much more power, but in terms of the free world, it's been Angela Merkel.

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Germany's historic moment of choice is finally here, and voters will stream to the polls on Sunday for the country's first post-World War II vote without a national leader seeking re-election. They will elect new members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will then try to secure a majority of seats by drawing other parties into a governing partnership. He or she will then replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor.

If the latest opinion polls are right, the center-left Social Democrats will finish first. In coming weeks, they look likely to form a (potentially unwieldy) governing coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats, which would be Germany's first-ever governing alliance of more than two parties.

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