What We’re Watching: EU goes green, Ethiopians at war, Taliban gains, Bolsonaro’s hiccups

What We’re Watching: EU goes green, Ethiopians at war, Taliban gains, Bolsonaro’s hicckups

Europe's green moonshot: The EU is going big on climate policy. On Wednesday the European Commission, the bloc's political cupola, committed to reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. These plans are the most ambitious of any large country or union on Earth: recent pledges by the US and China, the number one and number two polluters, are both more modest. The EU's proposals include new carbon trading schemes, investments in green tech, boosts for electric vehicles, and financial support to help lower-income communities adopt clean technologies. But as always, the EU's best-laid plans will still need to run through the wringer of 27 member states, each with their own agendas and constituencies. We, and the planet, are watching to see what things look like on the other side of that.


New front in Ethiopian war? In the days since a sudden — and now short-lived — ceasefire paused eight months of civil war in Ethiopia, Tigrayan forces have been re-establishing control over territory that they lost to Ethiopian government troops during the conflict. But that's already raising fears of another war. Why? Well, Tigray People's Liberation Front fighters are moving (back) into areas of Tigray that are claimed by the neighboring Amhara state — in a long-running border dispute of their own. That has prompted Amharan nationalists to call on their local ethnic militias to mobilize for war against the Tigrayans. This is merely the latest challenge to face PM Abiy Ahmed, who earlier this month won controversial nationwide elections, but continues to struggle to contain resurgent ethnic and regional strife in the country.

Taliban border moves: The Taliban claim to have won a big prize in their 20-year quest to regain full control of Afghanistan: the strategic border crossing linking the Afghan town of Spin Boldak with the Pakistani city of Chaman. It's the second busiest transit point between the two countries, and connects Pakistan's ports to Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city and former Taliban stronghold. The move will enable the Taliban to choke off supplies for the Afghan government — which right now barely controls any territory outside of major cities — and to bring in scores of Taliban fighters hosted by Baluchi militants across the border in Pakistan. If the Taliban maintain the pace of their military campaign, they could take Kabul and rule the entire country before the last US troops leave.

What's We're Listening To

A popul- hic! A populist's stom- hic! Stomach! Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has been hospitalized, reportedly to figure out a chronic case of... hiccups. The controversial rightwing populist had health scares before, including COVID, and the state of his innards has been a source of outward concern at least since he was badly stabbed during a 2018 campaign stop. As Bolsonaro faces fresh allegations of corruption and a daunting path to re-election in 2022, we are watching, and listening, closely for more — hic! — news.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted millions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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