What We're Watching: German turmoil, a fishy killing in Brazil, Sinn Féin's rise, and a bat plague

What We're Watching: German turmoil, a fishy killing in Brazil, Sinn Féin's rise, and a bat plague

Merkel's search for a successor – When Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took the reins of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party in 2018, she was seen as the obvious successor to Merkel, who will step down next year after 15 years in power. So much for that. Yesterday, Kramp-Karrenbauer (known as "AKK") resigned her CDU post and said she won't run in next year's election. She had come under fire for the party's losses in local elections. Major gaffes about free speech and LGBT rights didn't help. The final straw came last week when a local branch of the CDU defied AKK's warning not to support a local politician who also had the tactical backing of the far-right AfD party, prompting Merkel to intervene directly. AKK's departure throws open the question of succession to Merkel and underscores the tough times for Germany's traditional centrist parties as they face stiff challenges from both the right and the left.


Dead (hit)men tell no tales in Brazil – Brazilian police on Sunday gunned down Adriano da Nobrega, a notorious hitman who was a key witness in the 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco, a critic of police brutality. Nobrega had been sought for questioning, in part because the two former cops convicted of Franco's murder were thought to be members of a paramilitary gang that he ran in Rio. And the plot thickens further: Nobrega, like one of the convicted men, was close to the family of President Jair Bolsonaro. The police say that Nobrega opened fire as they tried to apprehend him, but Franco's friends and political allies are demanding more answers about the death of a man who may have known too much.

Sinn Féin– On Friday, we wrote that Sinn Féin, a party still reviled by some as the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, might break the hundred-year dominance of the country's two mainstream centrist parties. On Saturday, the party finished first in Ireland's multiparty election with 24.5 percent of the vote, almost doubling its 2016 tally. Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald has invited other parties to open talks on forming a coalition. We're watching to see if either of the two mainstream parties will do a deal with Sinn Fein, or risk increasing its popularity by allowing it to lead the opposition. What's more, although the party's success had mostly to do with its progressive economic program, it has also called for Irish reunification, an issue that will be back on the agenda soon.

Trivia interlude: If Sinn Fein enters government in Ireland while remaining in a power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland, would it be the only political party in the world to hold political power in two different countries at the same time?

Biblical plagues of animals – Farmers in East Africa are grappling with the worst plague of locusts in living memory. Swarms of the grasshopper-like insects have already swept across parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, and could soon be headed for South Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea, Djibouti, Oman, and Yemen, according to UN experts. Unusually heavy rains from a recent cyclone have contributed to the infestation. So has conflict: one of the locusts' main breeding grounds is in Somali territory controlled by al-Shabab militants, where it's too dangerous for governments to spray effective pesticides. On a far less serious note, hundreds of thousands of bats have invaded the Australian town of Ingham, dropping their feces on schools, sidewalks, and homes and generally making life miserable for the town's badly outnumbered denizens. We were going to ignore this story about a "bat tornado," which frankly sounded like fake news, until we found out there was video.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post mistakenly said that the CDU had directly supported a member of the AfD in the Thuringia contest. In fact, the CDU had supported a candidate of the Free Democrats Party who at the same time had the tactical support of the AfD. We regret the error.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

India's rape problem: Hundreds of protesters have flocked to the streets of New Delhi for four days straight after a 9-year old girl was raped and murdered in a small village outside the capital while going to fetch water for her family. Some demonstrators burned effigies of India's PM Narendra Modi, saying that the government has not done enough — or anything, really — to address the country's abysmal rape problem: there were more than 32,000 rapes recorded in 2019, certainly a vast undercount given the stigma associated with reporting sexual assaults in India. The scourge of sexual violence against women and girls in India was brought to light in 2012 when a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and murdered while traveling on a bus in the nation's capital, prompting international outrage. Four men have been arrested in connection with this week's attack, though they have not been charged. The city of New Delhi, meanwhile, has ordered an inquiry to probe events surrounding the young girl's death, though Indians who have been sounding the alarm on violence against women for decades aren't expecting much to come of it.

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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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20,200: As the super contagious delta variant continues to spread, Thailand is now a COVID hotspot, recording more than 20,200 new COVID cases Wednesday, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began. Authorities imposed new restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces as the vaccine rollout remains sluggish; just 5.8 percent of Thailand's 66 million people are fully vaccinated.

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