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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.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Now that millions of high-priority Americans have been vaccinated, many people in low-risk groups are starting to ask the same question: when's my turn? Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, has an answer, but probably not the one they're hoping for: "It probably won't be until May or June before we can at least start to get the normal non-prioritized person vaccinated." On GZERO World, Dr. Fauci also addresses another burning question: why aren't schools reopening faster? And while Dr. Fauci acknowledges that reopening schools must be a top priority, he has no quick fixes there, either. In fact, that's kind of a theme of the interview.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Dr. Fauci's Pandemic Prognosis

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

I thought I would talk today, I haven't spoken much about former President Trump since he's no longer president and I intend to continue that practice. But given this weekend and the big speech at CPAC and the fact that in the straw poll, Trump won and won by a long margin. I mean, DeSantis came in number two, but he's the Governor of Florida, CPAC was in Orlando, so that's a home court bias. In reality, it's Trump's party. And I think given all of that, it's worth spending a little bit of time reflecting on what that means, how I think about these things.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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