What We're Watching: Mali's protests, Israel's annexation, Poland's election

What We're Watching: Mali's protests, Israel's annexation, Poland's election

Go home, Malians tell president: Tens of thousands of Malians gathered in the streets of the capital city, Bamako, on Friday to demand the resignation of increasingly unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. In the second mass protest against him in less than a month, demonstrators said they are fed up with rampant corruption, a weak and disgruntled military incapable of stopping rising jihadist attacks, and the government's botched response to the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cissé by Al Qaeda-linked militants. Keita has led the sprawling West African nation since 2013, when he was elected to fill a power vacuum soon after French troops helped put down an Islamist rebellion in the north. The Economic Community of West African States, a regional political and economic bloc, is urging Keita — reelected in 2018 for a new 5-year term — to form a unity government to end the unrest.


Israel pushes ahead with annexation: Despite widespread international condemnation regarding its plan to annex up to 30 percent of the West Bank, Israel's government may, as early as next week, begin the process of doing just that. The move would not extend citizenship to Palestinians in those areas even though they would be subject to direct Israeli rule. Back in January, the Trump administration said that an annexation plan must be tied to a broader Israeli-US peace plan, but that process has since stalled. The stakes are high. Both the Palestinian Authority that operates in the West Bank and the Kingdom of Jordan have threatened to walk away from longstanding security agreements if Israel pushes ahead with annexation, prompting fears of a return to the violence that characterized the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States published an op-ed in an Israeli daily last week, warning that annexation would threaten the normalization of Israel's relations with the entire Arab world. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made cultivating closer ties with countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE a foreign policy priority.

Poland's tight polls: There are just a few days until Poland's June 28 general election, and incumbent right-wing President Andrzej Duda isn't spending many of them in Warsaw or Krakow. Instead, he's headed to the White House for a widely publicized face-to-face with President Trump. Duda says the ad-hoc meeting was scheduled at the last minute to discuss crucial issues of public health and security in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But many analysts say that with his main opponent, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowki, rising in the polls, this is Duda's last-ditch effort to cozy up to Trump – who is admired by much of Poland's influential right-wing electorate. Strong ties with Washington are doubly important for Duda given his country's increasing isolation from the European Union, which has criticized his government for eroding democratic norms. Duda may be banking on Trump to get him over the line, but whether that will be enough to overcome the pandemic-induced economic crisis that has been a boon for Poland's centrist candidates in recent weeks remains to be seen.


UPDATE: An earlier version of this article stated that the Israeli government had announced that it was going to begin annexing up to 30 percent of the West Bank next week. In fact, it is not known precisely how much territory the government intends to annex or at what pace.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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35.4: The US has overtaken China as the country with the largest share of the world's Bitcoin mining networks, now accounting for 35.4 of the global mining presence. This comes after the Chinese government banned domestic cryptocurrency mining operations to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction.

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