What We’re Watching: Libya’s kaleidoscopic war, Spain’s royal scandal, Burundi’s sudden death

What We’re Watching: Libya’s kaleidoscopic war, Spain’s royal scandal, Burundi’s sudden death

A new phase in Libya: The intractable conflict in Libya, now in its sixth year, appears to have reached a new phase in recent days. After a series of military gains by the Government of National Accord (GNA) – the internationally recognized government which is backed by Turkish troops – its rivals in the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar with support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Russia, proposed a unilateral ceasefire and the formation of a new nationwide leadership council. The idea, presented by President el-Sisi of Egypt, was promptly rejected by the GNA, which hopes to capitalize on recent military gains – including its takeover of the oil-rich city of Sirte – to solidify its control over Libya's eastern provinces. In response to the LNA's setbacks, Russia appeared to intensify its operations Tuesday, sending a host of new aircraft conveys to help General Haftar push back against the GNA offensive. Turkey's President Erdogan, meanwhile, lobbied President Trump to further support his cause in Libya.


Royal wrongdoing in Spain? Spain's top court is investigating whether the country's former king received millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks from Saudi Arabia in connection with a Spanish consortium's construction of a high-speed rail link between the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Swiss prosecutors are also reportedly probing financial links between then-King Juan Carlos and the late Saudi King Abdullah. Juan Carlos, who abdicated the throne in 2014 in favor of his son Felipe, now has no immunity from prosecution. Spain's current king has renounced any inheritance from his father, but this is just the latest in a series of financial scandals hanging over Spain's increasingly controversial royal family.

Burundi's outgoing president is dead: Just weeks after Burundi expelled World Health Organization representatives who criticized the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, the country's outgoing head of state, President Pierre Nkurunziza, has died, reportedly of a heart attack. The 55-year old Nkurunziza was to be replaced in August by a political ally after a tumultuous 15 years in power that have included a failed coup attempt, a harsh crackdown on political opponents and ongoing civic unrest that forced thousands of Burundians to flee the country in recent years. Reports are abuzz that Nkurunziz, who denied the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in recent months and pushed back against calls for social distancing guidelines, died from COVID-19. He and his wife had sought medical treatment in Kenya in recent weeks.

"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.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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It's easy to judge the Pompeiians for building a city on the foothills of a volcano, but are we really any smarter today? If you live along the San Andreas fault in San Francisco or Los Angeles, geologists are pretty confident you're going to experience a magnitude 8 (or larger) earthquake in the next 25 years—that's about the same size as the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed an estimated 3,000 people and destroyed nearly 30,000 buildings. Or if you're one of the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta, Indonesia, you might have noticed that parts of the ground are sinking by as much as ten inches a year, with about 40 percent of the city now below sea level.

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Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader" creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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