​What We're Watching: Merkel's emergency, South Sudan's hopes, and the Mecca Girls

Merkel's CDU in turmoil– Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU Party will hold a special session on April 25 to pick her successor after a series of crises that threaten to undermine her coalition government. The need to consolidate the party took on renewed urgency Sunday after the CDU slipped to third place with just 11 percent of the vote in local Hamburg elections. Merkel, chancellor for almost 15 years, said she will not run after her term ends in October 2021, but the woman seen as her obvious successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) recently quit as party boss, throwing CDU into further turmoil. The surprising outcome in Hamburg appeared to be a rebuke to the CDU after one of its local branches broke with post-World War Two convention in voting with the far-right AfD party to install a state official. Merkel wants to see out her term, but several candidates are reportedly jockeying to replace her immediately. We're watching to see how Merkel manages the political storm.


South Sudan's unity government – After a decade of bloody civil war and failed attempts at reconciliation, rivals in South Sudan have finally formed a unity government. International pressure had long mounted on South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar to reach a peace deal that would end a conflict that's killed at least 400,000 and displaced some 1.4 million people. Until now, both sides had refused to make concessions on two sticking points: territorial borders and security concerns in Juba, the capital. Machar has now been sworn in as the president's deputy, and the two sides will try to raise money to boost the famine-stricken economy. But this isn't their first attempt at a détente. Kiir and Machar started as political partners in 2011 after South Sudan gained independence from the north. But ensuing rivalry sparked a war characterized by ethnic violence that drew in tribal groups from around the country. Many of the armed groups operating in the region haven't signed on to the new deal, which could stir trouble for the nascent peace process.

Mecca Girls - Saudi authorities have called for the arrest of a Saudi female rapper following the release of a music video for her song Mecca Girl. The performer, who calls herself Asayel Slay, has given particular offense to some with the lyric "the Mecca girl is sugar candy." The governor of Mecca, home to Islam's holiest site, tweeted that the lyric and entire performance "insults the customs of Mecca." A supporter of the performance tweeted in response that "It's the only rap song that doesn't contain a single obscenity, insult, pornographic scene, nudity, hashish or smoking and the rapper is even wearing the hijab." Another supporter of the video points to the contradiction in Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's "modernization" drive: "This is so typical of the Saudi government to do – bring western influencers to artwash the regime but attack real Saudi women who try to artistically express their cultural identities."

Pablo's hungry hippos – Descendants of the pet hippos brought to Colombia by deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1980s are making news again this week. The original hippos, freed following Escobar's death in 1993, were considered too large and expensive to transport elsewhere. Their offspring are again wandering the countryside, provoking sharp reactions from local residents. Some adore the hippos. Others fear that their growing number will exponentially increase their destructive potential. A plan to sterilize some of the hippos will do little to manage a population that's expected to quadruple over the next decade. This region may one day find itself with literally thousands of hungry, hungry hippos.

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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. To understand what that means for the country's politics and public health policy, GZERO sat down with Christopher Garman, top Brazil expert at our parent company, Eurasia Group. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

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The Trump administration sent shockwaves through universities this week when it announced that international students in the US could be forced to return to their home countries if courses are not held in classrooms this fall. Around 1 million foreign students are now in limbo as they wait for institutions to formalize plans for the upcoming semester. But it's not only foreign students themselves who stand to lose out: International students infuse cash into American universities and contributed around $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-19 academic year. So, where do most of these foreign students come from? We take a look here.

For years, the Philippines has struggled with domestic terrorism. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that has the opposition on edge, as the tough-talking president gears up to make broader constitutional changes. Here's a look at what the law does, and what it means for the country less than two years away from the next presidential election.

The legislation grants authorities broad powers to prosecute domestic terrorism, including arrests without a warrant and up to 24 days detention without charges. It also carries harsh penalties for those convicted of terror-related offenses, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Simply threatening to commit an act of terror on social media can now be punished with 12 years behind bars.

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16,000: Amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon that has wiped out people's savings and cratered the value of the currency, more than 16,000 people have joined a new Facebook group that enables people to secure staple goods and food through barter.

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