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.

"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.

Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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Listen: A deep dive down the bottle to examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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