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.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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A Castro-less Cuba: Raúl Castro, younger brother of the late Fidel, is expected to retire on Friday as secretary-general of Cuba's ruling communist party. When he does, it'll mark the first time since the 1959 revolution that none of Cuba's leaders is named Castro. The development is largely symbolic since Castro, 89, handed over day-to-day affairs to President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2018. It's worth noting that US sanctions laws do specify that one of the conditions for normalizing ties with Cuba is that any transitional government there cannot include either of the Castro brothers. So that's one less box to tick in case there is a future rapprochement across the Straits of Florida. But more immediately, we're watching to see whether a new generation of leaders headed by Díaz-Canel will bring any serious reforms to Cuba. COVID has killed the tourism industry, plunging the island into an economic crisis that's brought back food shortages and dollar stores reminiscent of the early 1990s.

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16: Brazil's new plan to save the Amazon promises to curb deforestation, but not too much. Although it would reduce annual forest loss to the average recorded over the past five years, next year's target is still 16 percent higher than the Amazon's total deforestation in 2018, the year before President Jair Bolsonaro — who favors economic development of the rainforest — took office.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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