What We're Watching: Israel's awkward new government, Novavax is ready to play, Spaniards protest pardons

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin sits next to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as they pose for a group photo together with ministers of the new Israeli government, in Jerusalem June 14, 2021.

Is Israel's new government too awkward to survive? Israel's new government was sworn in on Sunday, and for the first time in 12 years, it is not led by someone named Benjamin Netanyahu. Though Netanyahu will remain head of the opposition bloc and leader of Likud, the biggest party in the Knesset, the new government, one of the most ideologically diverse in the nation's history, represents a massive political shift in the crisis-ridden country. The new government's representatives include right-wing nationalists — like Naftali Bennet, Israel's new prime minister — and centrists like Yair Lapid who heads the influential Yesh Atid party and is responsible for bringing the coalition together. For the first time in two decades, the far-left Meretz party will also sit in the government, as will a conservative Arab party, headed by Mansour Abbas, who reversed a decades-old position by agreeing to serve in government with Jewish Zionists in the hopes of delivering for his community. There are plenty of reasons to doubt the longevity of the new government given its incoherent alliances, but on the flip side, these factions — most of which are small and would likely not have made the cut to sit in government without Lapid's deal-making — have incentives to make the government work. The first item on the agenda will be passing a national budget, the first in two years. But with a slim coalition of only 61 out of 120 Knesset seats, pulling this off won't be easy.


Novavax's COVID vaccine does not disappoint: Clinical trial results for the coronavirus vaccine made by US-based Novavax showed it is 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections — and 100 percent effective against serious, life-threatening illness. Novavax says it plans to produce 100 million doses per month by the end of September, and 150 million doses per month thereafter. Low and middle-income countries will be among the first to receive shipments, according to Novavax. Approval in the US may take some time as US regulators may not issue "emergency" authorization the way they did earlier in the pandemic for Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna. However, Novavax will seek approvals also in the EU, UK, India, and South Korea where, for the most part, vaccine rollouts have been weaker than in the US. Scientists say that in addition to offering basic protection, this shot could emerge as one of the most effective "boosters" for those who have already been fully inoculated, because it proved very effective against some variants of concern.

Protests over pardons in Spain: Tens of thousands of Spaniards have taken to the streets of the capital, Madrid, to protest the government's plans to pardon Catalan independence leaders who were jailed for sedition in 2019. Leftwing Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says the move is meant to promote unity in a country where the Catalan independence drive in 2017 provoked a brutal crackdown and constitutional crisis, but critics say he's dangerously pandering to the Catalan nationalist parties whose support his fragile minority government needs. Meanwhile, nationwide, nearly two thirds of Spaniards disapprove of the move, and the figure is almost certainly higher than that among non-Catalans (source in Spanish). The pardons have stoked particular fury among Spain's resurgent far right.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

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"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

Salvadorans protest Bukele, Bitcoin: Thousands of people took to the streets of El Salvador's capital on Wednesday, the 200th anniversary of the country's independence, to protest against President Nayib Bukele's increasingly authoritarian streak and his embrace of risky cryptocurrency. Last May, Bukele ended the Supreme Court's independence; perhaps unsurprisingly, the court then decided to lift the constitutional ban on presidential term limits — presumably so Bukele can run for reelection in 2024. Meanwhile, last week El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender, but the rollout was, to put it mildly, messy. The protesters resent Bukele's dictator vibes and warn that Bitcoin could spur inflation and financial instability. The tech-savvy president, for his part, insists that crypto will bring in more cash from remittances and foreign investment, and remains immensely popular among most Salvadorans. Still, Bukele's Bitcoin gamble could erode his support if the experiment fails.

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22.7 million: Trinidad-born US rapper Nicki Minaj has caused a political uproar after telling her 22.7 million Twitter followers that the COVID vaccine caused her Trinidadian cousin's friend to get swollen testicles and become impotent. The country's health minister called out Minaj, as did the White House.

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