What We’re Watching: Irish PM rotation begins, Karachi stock exchange attacked, Poles go to runoff

What We’re Watching: Irish PM rotation begins, Karachi stock exchange attacked, Poles go to runoff

Ireland has a new Taoiseach: Mícheál Martin was elected on Saturday by parliament as Ireland's new "taoiseach" (prime minister). Martin, leader of the center-right Fianna Fáil, will head a coalition government with the center-left Fine Gael and the Green Party. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael — which have taken turns in power since 1905 — will rotate the prime minister position in the latest example of mainstream parties striking odd deals to exclude anti-establishment forces, in this case the far-left Sinn Féin. The new coalition now has five years to show voters it can be more than a "green" version of business-as-usual.


Separatists target Pakistan stock exchange: At least seven people died after armed militants from a local separatist group stormed Pakistan's stock exchange in Karachi on Monday. The attack was claimed on social media by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which demands self-determination for this mineral-rich province. The BLA has traditionally targeted Chinese interests in the region, but there have been more recent clashes with the Pakistani military. There is also growing suspicion that the BLA is conducting joint operations with their former rivals from the Balochistan Liberation Front.

Poland presidential vote goes to runoff: President Andrzej Duda won the first round of Poland's presidential election on Sunday, but fell short of the 50 percent majority needed to avoid a July 12 runoff against Rafal Trzaskowski, the liberal mayor of Warsaw. Exit polls showed Duda — an ally of the governing Law and Justice party — got almost 42 percent of the vote, while Trzaskowski from the centrist Civic Platform party received over 30 percent. Despite Duda's double-digit lead, the runoff is expected to be very tight in a high-stakes election for Poland, and for the country's tense relationship with the European Union. The Polish president is less powerful than the prime minister but can refuse to sign legislation, and the ruling party doesn't have enough votes to override a veto if Trzaskowski wins.

What We're Ignoring

Iran wants Trump in handcuffs: Iran on Monday asked Interpol to detain US President Donald Trump after issuing an unprecedented arrest warrant for Trump and nearly 40 other US officials Teheran links to the killing of Qassim Suleimani earlier this year. Suleimani, the former leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, was killed by a US drone strike in Iraq in a targeted assassination that brought both sides to the brink of war. Brian Hook, US envoy for Iran, dismissed the move as a "publicity stunt," while Interpol flatly refused to honor the request. Iran said it will continue to pursue the matter even after Trump leaves office.

A Walmart employee with a big smile wearing an employee vest

Since 2018, the Live Better U program has helped prepare more than 52,000 associates for careers at Walmart or wherever their professional ambitions take them. Now, Walmart will pay 100% of college tuition and books for eligible associates. This means approximately 1.5M associates can earn college degrees or learn trade skills without the burden of education debt. Learn more.

The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

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Governments around the world are offering creative incentives for getting a jab.

If you happen to live in New York and are one of the city’s 18% of unvaccinated residents, now might be a good time to go get jabbed. But not just because of omicron.

In late December, now former NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the city would start offering gift cards, free roller coaster rides on Coney Island and trips to the Statue of Liberty to those who get their shots. And it’s not just the Big Apple.

As infections jump, vaccination incentive programs have been brought back around the world. Officials in vaccine-hesitant Missouri have earmarked $11 million dollars for gift cards worth $100. Vermont is awarding schools with per-pupil bonuses if they hit rates higher than 85%.

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What We’re Watching: China's problems, UAE vs Houthis, Nord Stream 2 split

China's mounting problems. Xi Jinping is not off to a good start in 2022. First, Chinese economic growth slowed down to 4 percent in the last quarter of 2021, almost a percentage point less than the previous period. While annual GDP was up 8.1 percent year-on-year, beating government expectations, the trend is worrying for the world’s second-largest economy. Second, annual population growth fell in 2021 to its lowest rate since 1949, when the ruling Communist Party took over. Although Xi probably saw this one coming, he's running out of ideas to encourage Chinese families to have more children — which the government needs in order to sustain growth and support the elderly over the long term. Third, and most immediate: the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics canceled ticket sales for domestic spectators — foreigners were not invited — as the more transmissible omicron variant has driven up COVID infections in China to the highest level since March 2020. It's only the latest sign that Xi's controversial zero-COVID policy is setting itself up for failure against omicron without mRNA vaccines. What'll it take for China to reverse course?

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Hard Numbers: Tongan volcano, Ukrainian cyberattack, Zemmour fined over hate speech, NK-China border reopens

100,000: We're still waiting for news from the Pacific nation of Tonga, two days after a massive underwater volcanic explosion triggered a tsunami that was felt thousands of miles away and sent a plume of ash 100,000 feet into the sky. With communications mostly cut off, Australia and New Zealand have sent airplanes to assess the damage.

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Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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Omicron is here. The bad news is that it's more contagious. The good news is that mRNA vaccines work against death and hospitalization. COVID may soon become endemic in some parts of the world.

Not in China, where Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low.

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January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

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