What We're Watching: Deadly clashes in Pakistan, Xi Jinping's calendar app, Parisian courts vs Macron

Supporters of the banned Islamist political party Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) chant slogans during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan April 19, 2021.

Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.


Xi Jinping's calendar app: After three days of talks between US climate czar John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, the two sides agreed to cooperate on tackling climate change "with urgency." Urgency is a good thing, given that China is the world's largest polluter, followed by the US. If there's any hope of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, the US and China will have to work together to get there. But the US and China climate dialogue will need to move quickly from diplomatic goodwill to observable action. On that score, one big thing to keep an eye on is whether Chinese president Xi Jinping himself decides to attend the online global climate summit that US President Joe Biden is hosting later this week. Amid growing tensions between the US and China on a range of human rights, technological, and strategic issues, Xi's decision will send an early signal about how important Beijing thinks it is to work with Washington on climate specifically.

Parisian court won't try anti-Semitic attacker: Four years after the brutal murder of a Jewish woman in Paris, France's top court has ruled that the alleged attacker cannot face trial because he was in a cannabis-induced "delirious fit" (in lay terms: he had smoked a lot of pot). Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman living alone, was brutally attacked by a young Muslim man in 2017, who engaged in an anti-semitic rant while aggressively beating the woman before throwing her off a balcony. The French Jewish community, the largest in Europe, expressed outrage at the judge's decision to uphold a lower court ruling that the aggressor could not be held accountable for his actions because of his drug use. The high-profile crime came as French Jews have been reeling from a series of anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, prompting thousands to flee the country in fear. Before the verdict, President Emmanuel Macron came under fire for saying that he hopes the case goes to trial, with critics saying he should stay inside his (executive) lane. In response to the case, dozens of French senators are now calling for legislative reform so that a disturbed mental state because of drug use cannot be cause for exoneration, which Macron says he also supports.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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