What We’re Watching: Nigerians reject police brutality, US arms Taiwan, Argentina COVID protests grow

Nigerians take part in a protest against alleged violence, extortion and harassment from SARS in Lagos. Reuters

Nigeria reckons with police brutality: Fed up with a federal police unit accused of warrantless arrests, torture and murder, thousands of Nigerians took to the streets over the weekend to demand the government dissolve the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protests were sparked by a viral video of a man allegedly being beaten to death by SARS agents. Although President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to disband the unit, protesters say that doesn't go far enough and demand sweeping changes to policing in Nigeria as they did over the summer in the aftermath of the George Floyd rallies against police brutality in the US. The protests have spread outside the country and gotten attention from celebrities and influencers on social media, where the hashtag #EndSARS has trended globally for days. We're watching to see if the movement gains enough traction for Buhari to accept an overhaul of the entire police system in Nigeria, where police officers are immensely powerful.

US-China spar over Taiwan: The Trump administration is moving forward on several deals to supply high-tech weapons and military equipment to Taiwan, as the territory — which Beijing claims is part of mainland China — is rapidly becoming a pawn in the US-China rivalry. The Trump administration notified the US Congress that it has approved the sale of sophisticated weapons to Taipei — including drones and long-range missiles — all of which could help Taiwan defend itself from a potential Chinese invasion. Beijing reacted by demanding Washington halt all sales in accordance with the "One China" policy that does not recognize Taiwan's independence. Meanwhile, Washington and Beijing also traded barbs over this week's meeting of the "Quad" group of countries (the US, Japan, Australia, and India), which China views as an American attempt to create a NATO-style military alliance as a bulwark against Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Whatever happens with the Quad in the future, it's clear that Beijing and Washington are unwilling to ease tensions over Taiwan, and the question is not if but rather when China will move to retake its renegade province by force.

Argentinians are furious: As Argentina's COVID-19 caseload surpassed 900,000 this week, thousands of protesters across several cities demonstrated against the government's handling of the pandemic. Protesters say that after months of mismanaged lockdowns, center-left President Alberto Fernández has been unable to contain the virus' spread or implement measures to help boost the country's battered economy (even before the pandemic, Argentina had suffered from years of recession). Critics argue that the real person in charge is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the powerful vice president and former chief executive who has faced a string of corruption and criminal charges in recent years. For the opposition, the Fernández-Kirchner duo has used the COVID crisis to crack down on individual freedoms and to surreptitiously pass unpopular reforms that undermine the independence of the judicial system to protect government allies with pending court cases (including Kirchner herself). This is the fifth spontaneous mass protest to erupt in Argentina in recent months, and as the pandemic only worsens, angry Argentinians likely think they have little to lose.

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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