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What We're Watching: COVID back in Vietnam, more Scots want independence, DRC violence spikes

What We're Watching: COVID back in Vietnam, more Scots want independence, DRC violence spikes

Vietnam vs coronavirus (round 2): After going three months with no local transmissions of COVID-19, Vietnam is worried about a resurgence of the disease after a recent outbreak in the coastal city of Da Nang that has already spread to 11 other locations throughout the country. Authorities in Vietnam — widely considered a global success story in handling the pandemic thanks to its aggressive testing, contact-tracing and quarantines — believe the Da Nang outbreak is tied to an influx of domestic tourism there after lockdown restrictions were recently eased by the government. As a precaution, they have converted a 1,000-seat Da Nang sports stadium into a field hospital to treat the sick in case local hospitals become overwhelmed. More than 1,000 medical personnel, assisted by Cuban doctors, have been sent there to screen residents, and the capital Hanoi plans to test 72,000 people who recently returned from Da Nang. Will Vietnam prevail again in its second battle against COVID-19?


Scottish independence pressures: Support for Scottish independence has surged to 53 percent in a new YouGov poll, as nationalists capitalize on what many perceive to be Scotland's much better response to the coronavirus pandemic than that of the UK government in London. Six years ago, a small majority of Scots voted to remain part of the UK in an independence vote that ended 55/45. But even before COVID-19 struck, Brexit — which was unpopular in Scotland — stoked calls for a second referendum. The question now is whether British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will agree to hold another plebiscite on Scottish independence. So far he's rejected the possibility, and his Conservative Party's comfortable majority in parliament means he's under little pressure to change his mind. But if the pro-referendum Scottish National Party sweeps next year's parliamentary election in Scotland (as expected), things could get more interesting.

Violent escalation in the DRC: Over 1,300 people have died in attacks by different armed groups in the resource-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the first six months of 2020, almost triple the amount of deaths compared with the same period last year. The violence is particularly intense in Ituri, a gold mining region where the Hema ethnic group, who are predominantly herders, are fighting Lendu sedentary farmers (19 civilians were killed in Ituri this past weekend alone). In 2003, a bloody ethnic conflict in Ituri prompted the European Union to deploy its first foreign peacekeeping mission, while the UN has warned that such attacks could be considered crimes against humanity. But such violence is not new for the people of DRC, where dozens of armed militias have been terrorizing local populations for over 30 years and war over control of mining resources has displaced over 5 million people since the early 1990s.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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A body blow for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Imran Khan suffered an embarrassing defeat this week when members of the National Assembly, the country's lower house, voted to give the opposition bloc a majority in the Senate. (In Pakistan, lower house legislators and provincial assemblies elect senators in a secret ballot.) The big drama of it all is that Khan's own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a lower house majority, which means that lawmakers supposedly loyal to his party voted in secret for opposition candidates. Khan's allies claim that PTI members were bribed to support the opposition, and the prime minister says he will ask for a lower house vote of confidence in his leadership. That vote will not be secret, but even if he survives, the political damage is done. Without a Senate majority, he has no chance of passing key reform plans, including constitutional amendments meant to centralize financial and administrative control in the federal government. Khan has, however, refused to resign.

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