What We’re Watching: Global scorcher, Indonesia’s COVID surge, Lebanon keeps imploding

What We’re Watching: Global scorcher, Indonesia’s COVID surge, Lebanon keeps imploding

Global heat wave: In much of the world, the past few days have been an absolute scorcher. Temperatures in the normally damp, temperate US Pacific Northwest soared to records of 115 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Further north in Canada's British Columbia, the mercury climbed to 121, causing dozens of deaths. In remote reaches of Siberia, satellites recorded a mark of 117 degrees. Yes, you read that right: 117 degrees in Siberia. Typically toastier parts of the world have suffocated under unusual heat too: temperatures broke 120 in Southern Iraq this week, just as the region is struggling with widespread power outages. Experts say that although massive heatwaves are perfectly natural, climate change makes them more likely to occur and more intense when they do. In other words: the drastic effects of climate change aren't off in the future somewhere; they are here, right now. Will this hot spell light a fresh fire under efforts to tackle climate change ahead of the next UN climate change summit in Glasgow this fall? We're sweating out that answer along with the rest of you.


Indonesia on COVID brink: Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is teetering on the edge of a COVID "catastrophe." On Tuesday, the country reported almost 20,500 new infections, its highest daily rate since the pandemic began. The Red Cross says the nation's health system could soon collapse as the more infectious Delta variant threatens the supply of hospital beds and oxygen. Indeed, in recent days the price of an oxygen tank has almost tripled to $140, way more than most Indonesians can afford. To make matters worse, only 5 percent of Indonesians have been fully vaccinated, mostly with China's Sinovac jab, which is as effective as other vaccines against COVID death and severe illness but less so to prevent contagion. Although some experts are blaming the rising cases and the deaths of at least 10 fully inoculated doctors on Sinovac, the Indonesian government has no plans to suspend its use for now. President Joko Widodo has already delayed opening up the island of Bali to international tourists, but he has yet to decide on imposing another national lockdown that could further damage Indonesia's already fragile economy.

Lebanese economic hell: For many Lebanese, their country has become "unlivable." In what used to be an oasis of modernity and prosperity in the otherwise troubled Middle East, people now face shortages of almost all basic products, most of which they can hardly afford even when available due to hyperinflation. Power outages are now frequent, and the government's sudden decision to cut subsidies on Tuesday increased fuel prices overnight by one-third. As we've written before, the current mess is a direct result of a severe economic crisis that started in late 2019 as a result of decades of corruption and mismanagement. It was then turbocharged by the fallout from the August 2020 Beirut port explosion, which left Lebanon without a functioning government. Since then, things have only gotten worse with no end in sight. The Lebanese are now venting their anger by fighting each other at gas stations and attacking bank staff. But they've been protesting for 20 months with little to show for it: the same politicians that got them here still hold power, and their latest plan to fix Lebanon's economic ills is… more subsidies.

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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.

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:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

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16: A new study tracking Earth's "vital signs" has found that 16 out of 31 indicators of planetary health are getting worse due to climate change. Last year's pandemic-induced shutdown did little to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, stop the oceans from warming, or slow the shrinking of polar ice caps.

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Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

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