What We’re Watching: Japanese PM's health woes, ISIS in Mozambique, Eastern Med tensions rise

What We’re Watching: Japanese PM's health woes, ISIS in Mozambique, Eastern Med tensions rise

How sick is Shinzo Abe? On the day that he became the longest-serving prime minister in Japan's history, Shinzo Abe went to the hospital. His visit on Monday to the Keio University medical center was his second in little more than a week, and while Abe says it was just a follow-up to go over earlier tests, concerns about his health and political future are now swirling in Japan. Abe is known to have a chronic intestinal condition called ulcerative colitis — back in 2007 the disease flared up so badly that it forced him to quit after a year in office. He was elected again in 2012 and has stayed in power ever since. But recently, his aides say, Abe has become badly fatigued as the Japanese government struggles to manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The economy has just suffered its worst quarterly contraction on record, and Abe's approval ratings have been sinking for months. His term is set to end next October, but if the leader of the world's third largest economy can't make it that long, his deputy would take over as caretaker, setting off a furious succession struggle within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.


Mozambique vs ISIS: The Mozambican army is preparing a major assault to reclaim a strategic port in northern Cabo Delgado province taken over two weeks ago by fighters affiliated with the Islamic State, which for the first time is gaining a foothold in Southern Africa. The troops — assisted by foreign mercenaries from a South African private military contractor — aim to wrest control of the port away from the rebels, partly to keep international investment flowing to major offshore liquified natural gas projects that Mozambique desperately needs revenues from to prop up its weak economy. The wider story is whether ISIS will capitalize on its unexpected success in Cabo Delgado to target other countries in the region. The list would include South Africa, which the jihadists have already threatened to attack if Pretoria supports Mozambique's efforts to eject them from Cabo Delgado. Over 1,500 people have died so far in clashes between Mozambican troops and the rebels since the latter first tried to seize the port in 2017.

Cool it, Greeks and Turks: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday called on Greece and Turkey to de-escalate their dispute over offshore hydrocarbon rights in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, as both countries hold separate naval drills in the contested region off Cyprus. The latest episode in this saga started when Turkey over the weekend deployed a maritime research vessel in waters claimed by Athens. Since then, both sides have engaged in a back-and-forth of fiery rhetoric that has made many fear that these two historically bitter Mediterranean rivals — which have long quarreled over ethnically divided Cyprus and EU-bound refugees, and more recently turning Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque — may now be on the brink of war. The Greeks have threatened to pursue EU sanctions against the Turks if Ankara refuses to halt its plans to explore for oil and gas in disputed waters, while Turkey insists the area is part of its own continental shelf. We are watching to see if Germany succeeds in the diplomatic effort to ease tensions, and whether France (another Mediterranean player) will weigh in, probably to support fellow EU members Cyprus and Greece.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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10: Joshua Wong was sentenced along with other Hong Kong democracy activists to 10 months in prison for participating in a vigil last year marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Wong is currently behind bars for participating in separate pro-democracy protests, and will only start this new sentence after that term concludes in November.

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What's the biggest foreign policy misconception that Americans have about the US's role in the world? According to international relations expert Tom Nichols, too few Americans believe that the US, in fact, has a critical role in the world, and that the things Americans enjoy, from cheap goods to safe streets, are made possible because of American global leadership. "Americans have become so spoiled and inured to the idea that the world is a dangerous place that they don't understand that the seas are navigable because someone makes them that way. They don't understand that peace between the great powers is not simply like the weather, that just happens," Nichols tells Ian Bremmer. Their conversation is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television – check local listings.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The Red Pen

India’s COVID crisis hits home

GZERO World Clips
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal