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.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

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.

Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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Listen: A deep dive down the bottle to examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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