What We’re Watching: Navalny poisoning confirmed, Israel-Hamas truce, Japan PM hopefuls

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny at a rally in Moscow.

Germany confirms Russian dissident was poisoned: German lab tests have verified that Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, a defiant critic of Vladimir Putin, was recently poisoned with Novichok, the same Soviet-era nerve agent used in 2018 in the UK against former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both of whom survived. After Germany asked Russia for an explanation, the Kremlin (as expected) brushed off the allegations and demanded that Berlin share information about the case. The use of Novichok, a rare and highly specialized poison, suggests some level of state involvement in the attempted killing, but Putin has so far declined to comment publicly on the poisoning.


Israel, Hamas stop fighting (for now): Amid a coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip and a rising caseload in Israel, the Israeli government and the Palestinian militants of Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire. The one-month truce includes a Qatari cash infusion for Hamas, and an Israeli pledge to lifting a fuel sales ban on Gaza (which was initially imposed after Hamas began launching balloons filled with explosives and rockets into southern Israel, prompting retaliatory airstrikes by Israel). Gaza's 2 million residents are hoping that the truce will finally put them back on the electrical grid after weeks of darkness due to the fuel shortage. The enclave was placed under lockdown last week after its first community transmission of COVID-19 was detected. Experts have warned that a deadly outbreak of the coronavirus could be catastrophic in Gaza, where social distancing is often impossible and the health system is always on the brink of collapse.

Race is on to succeed Abe in Japan: Following Shinzo Abe's abrupt resignation as prime minister of Japan, several members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are expected to throw their hat into the ring to replace him. According to a Kyodo poll, the current frontrunner is former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, whom Abe defeated twice in battles for the LDP leadership in 2012 and 2018. Although Ishiba — a rare vocal critic of Abe in favor of stronger ties with other Asian countries amid the US-China rivalry — has strong grassroots support among the wider electorate, he is less popular with the party establishment. Ishiba, who has yet to confirm he's running, will likely face off against Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, an LDP darling who is trailing Ishiba in the surveys but is widely considered to be the consensus candidate in a party leadership contest where only LDP lawmakers will be allowed to vote due to the coronavirus pandemic. Will they pick the popular insurgent or the trusted Abe lieutenant?

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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