What We're Watching: DRC's Ebola outbreak, Russia's referendum, Netanyahu's annexation push

DRC's new Ebola wave: On the verge of eradicating an Ebola outbreak in the country's east which began back in 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has now identified a fresh wave of cases in the northwestern city of Mbandaka. The disease, which has a fatality rate of 25 – 90 percent depending on the outbreak's character, has already killed five people in recent weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to issue a grim warning that a surge of new cases could occur there in the coming months. (Ebola has an incubation period of about 21 days.) This comes as the central African country of 89 million also grapples with COVID-19 and the world's largest measles outbreak, which has killed 6,779 people there since 2019. In recent weeks, officials from the World Health Organization predicted that the DRC's deadly Ebola crisis, which has killed 2,275 people since 2018, would soon be completely vanquished.


Russia's referendum is on again: Coronavirus postponed, but couldn't cancel, Vladimir Putin's latest grand plan. Back in April, Russians were supposed to vote on constitutional amendments that would allow Putin to reset the clock on term limits and potentially serve as president until 2036. That vote has now been re-scheduled for July 1, and Putin has good reason to want to hold it ASAP. True, his approval rating remains at 59%, and a credible poll conducted on May 20 found that 44% intended to support the new plan with just 32% opposed. (Others were undecided.) But the health and economic damage inflicted by coronavirus has cut into his popularity enough in recent months to persuade him to act now before his margin becomes embarrassingly narrow. In the end, it's virtually assured that Putin will get the results he wants – state media will see to that. Then all he has to do is keep Russians happy with his leadership for another 16 years.

Netanyahu's annexation push: After staging an unlikely political victory in April, Israel's newly emboldened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he plans to move ahead with contentious plans to annex part of the West Bank starting on July 1. The unilateral move, deemed illegal by most of the international community, has not been coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, who preemptively rebuffed the move and threatened to tear up all agreements with Israeli military forces, crucial to the security of both. But it's not Palestinian misgivings that are holding Netanyahu back from going full steam ahead now – it's the Trump administration. While the US initially showed enthusiasm for the annexation plan, which involves Israel folding 30 percent of the West Bank into its territory, including the Jordan Valley and settlements, American delegates, including Jared Kushner who pioneered President Trump's Mideast peace plan, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have since waffled on the annexation issue. The political fallout is reverberating throughout the region. Jordan, for example, which has enjoyed a cold peace with Israel for decades, threatened to reassess the peace accord if Netanyahu pushes ahead with the annexation issue.


Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick joins That Made All the Difference podcast to discuss how his career as a surgeon influenced his work as an educator, administrator and champion of underserved communities, and why he believes we may be on the cusp of the next "golden generation."

Listen to the latest podcast now.

It's been a bad week at the office for President Trump. Not only have coronavirus cases in the US been soaring, but The New York Times' bombshell report alleging that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan has continued to make headlines. While details about the extent of the Russian bounty program — and how long it's been going on for — remain murky, President Trump now finds himself in a massive bind on this issue.

Here are three key questions to consider.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Yes, still in the middle of coronavirus, but thought I'd give you a couple of my thoughts on Russia. Part of the world that I cut my teeth on as a political scientist, way back in the eighties and nineties. And now Putin is a president for life, or at least he gets to be president until 2036, gets another couple of terms. The constitutional amendments that he reluctantly allowed to be voted on across Russia, passed easily, some 76% approval. And so now both in China and in Russia, term limits get left behind all for the good of the people, of course. So that they can have the leaders that they truly deserve. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here. It's sad to see. It's sad to see that the Americans won the Cold War in part, not just because we had a stronger economy and a stronger military, but actually because our ideas were better.

Because when those living in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block looked at the West, and looked at the United States, they saw that our liberties, they saw that our economy, was something that they aspired to and was actually a much better way of giving opportunities to the average citizen, than their own system afforded. And that helped them to rise up against it.

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Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US politics:

How likely is bipartisan action against Russia in light of Taliban bounty reports?

I think it's probably unlikely. One of the challenges here is that there's some conflict of the intelligence and anything that touches on the issue of President Trump and Russia is extremely toxic for him. Republicans have so far been tolerant of that and willing to stop any new sanctions coming. I think unless the political situation or the allegations get much worse or more obvious, that stalemate probably remains.

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When hundreds of thousands of protesters in Ethiopia brought sweeping change to their government in 2018, many of them were blaring the music of one man: a popular young activist named Hachalu Hundessa, who sang songs calling for the liberation and empowerment of the Oromo, the country's largest ethnic group.

Earlier this week, the 34-year old Hundessa was gunned down in the country's capital, Addis Ababa.

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