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What We're Watching: Pakistan's COVID surge, high drama in the Himalayas, the UK's 5G problem

What We're Watching: Pakistan's COVID surge, high drama in the Himalayas, the UK's 5G problem

Pakistan's coronavirus surge: The World Health Organization is urging Pakistan to reimpose strict lockdowns, citing a surge in recent coronavirus cases in the country. Earlier this spring, the Pakistani government mandated lockdowns in some parts of the country, but opted not to order the closure of mosques, bowing to pressure from religious groups in the majority-Muslim nation. Most lockdown measures were then lifted ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr two weeks ago. Since then, the daily increase in confirmed cases has shot up from an average of about 1,700 before Eid to a record of nearly 5,400 on Tuesday, according to Al-Jazeera. The WHO says Pakistan has met none of the criteria for easing restrictions and needs to do much more testing. But Prime Minister Khan is in a tough spot. Lockdowns are not only hard to enforce, but in a country where up to three quarters of all non-farm jobs are in the informal sector and 24 percent of the population lives in poverty, shuttering businesses can have a catastrophic effect on society. To date, Pakistan has recorded more than 113,000 cases and about 2,200 deaths.


High-altitude tensions in the Himalayas: Nepal's government has just issued a new official map of the country which its neighbors in India are not going to like. In dispute is an area of about 140 square miles in the Himalayas that includes a mountain pass that India's military says is vitally important to the country's security. For the past sixty years, India has de facto controlled it, and the people who live there are Indian citizens. But last November, India published a new map that formally included the territory as a part of India, provoking fury in Nepal. In part the dispute goes back to an unclear map in a 200-year old treaty. But tensions over the area are intensifying now as Nepal has deepened economic ties with China, which Indian officials say has an interest in stoking tensions up in the mountains. Beijing is withholding comment, but the issue is drawing international attention in light of a recent uptick in high altitude border tensions between India and China directly. Keep an eye on this one: the air is thin up there, but the geopolitical drama is thick.

Can the UK do 5G without China? British telecoms giant Vodaphone has warned that if the UK government bans the use of equipment made by China's Huawei, Britain could fall behind in the global race to develop 5G technologies. The warning highlights a challenge that a number of countries around the world are facing. Blazing fast new 5G networks will massively boost technological innovation and data capabilities, underpinning a whole new generation of technologies like advanced manufacturing, the internet-of-things, and even self-driving cars. But to get there, most countries will need to rely heavily on components made by Huawei, the world's leading supplier. That's a problem for countries — especially the US and Europe — that have become more suspicious of Chinese technology. The US has already banned certain Huawei-made 5G components over fears that Beijing could use them to snoop on Americans or cripple critical infrastructure in a time of crisis. Vodafone says it can build 5G without Huawei components if it absolutely has to, but it's a lot more expensive and time-consuming to switch suppliers now. The warning comes as the UK explores ways to decrease its reliance on Chinese exports and technologies more broadly.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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