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.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

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India and Brazil are currently the world's top two COVID hotspots. But while India's crisis is — at least according to official statistics — a relatively recent one, Brazil's COVID disaster has been an ongoing train wreck. Where India seemed to have kept the pandemic under control until some bad missteps about two months ago, COVID has been wreaking havoc in Brazil almost constantly for over a year now. And President Jair Bolsonaro's macho-posturing and COVID denialism has clearly not helped. We take a look at average daily new cases and deaths in both countries since the pandemic began.

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

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28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

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India’s COVID crisis hits home

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