What We're Watching: Protests erupt in Minsk, Hong Kong isn't special anymore, Ethiopia surfs the web again

A rare rally in Belarus: It's not often that you see people protesting a president known as "Europe's last dictator." But that's precisely what happened in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, as a brave few hundred protesters demonstrate against the government's decision to ban the two main opposition candidates from running in next month's presidential election. It's a rare show of defiance against President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since the country emerged from the Soviet Union in 1991, and now wants a sixth term in office. But his hold on power could be waning due to popular exhaustion with his authoritarian style, a sluggish economy, and his ridiculous approach to the coronavirus pandemic: he's recommended "vodka and saunas" as a cure for the disease and refused to impose any lockdowns. So far Belarus has recorded more than 65,000 cases and about 500 deaths. We're watching to see whether the protests grow enough for Lukashenko to get into serious trouble ahead of the (almost assuredly rigged) vote.


Trump ends HK's special status: The Trump administration decided on Wednesday to end preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong, while authorizing sanctions on any US banks that do business with Chinese officials in charge of implementing China's controversial new security law there. Trump's move is the latest installment in Washington's tit-for-tat with Beijing over Hong Kong, which includes fresh tensions over the South China Sea, China's treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, and US-China competition for global tech domination. China has already vowed to retaliate against Washington over the Hong Kong measures — we're watching to see what, exactly, that means.

Ethiopia is back online: The Government of Ethiopia has partially restored internet access nationwide, more than three weeks after the murder of a popular singer led to mass protests that prompted the government to pull the plug on the web. Hachalu Hundessa, whose songs call to empower the Oromo, the country's largest ethnic group, was gunned down last month in the capital city, Addis Ababa. Amid the subsequent unrest more than 200 people were killed and thousands arrested. A fragile calm has been restored, especially since the police detained two suspects in Hundessa's murder several days ago, and the government now seems comfortable enough to switch on the internet again. But violence can return as long as the murder remains unsolved. We're watching to see if Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo himself, succeeds in his efforts to unite ethnic groups to keep the peace in a deeply fragmented country.

How much material do we use to send a package? Too much. Does recycling help? Yes – but not really. Packaging material often accumulates as waste, contributing to its own "polluting weight." To solve our packaging dilemma, Finland came up with RePack: a "circular" solution for the reuse of material.

Learn more about RePack in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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Ian Bremmer's QuickTake:

It's Monday, coronavirus still going on. Plenty to talk about.

I mean, I guess the biggest news in the United States is the fact that we still don't have any stimulus going forward. I mean, now, keep in mind, this is on the back of an exceptionally strong initial US economic response, over 10% of GDP, ensuring relief for small businesses, for big corporations, and most importantly, for everyday American citizens, many of whom, large double digit numbers, lost their jobs, a lot of whom lost them permanently but didn't have to worry, at least in the near term, because they were getting cash from the government. Is that going to continue?

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Lebanon's government resigns: Lebanon's government resigned on Monday over last week's twin explosions at Beirut's port, which killed at least 160 people and shattered much of the city's downtown areas. After promising a thorough investigation into why dangerous explosives were stored at the port so close to civilian areas, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would step down in solidarity with the people." The people in question are furious. Thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets in recent days demanding "revolution" and the resignation of a political class whose corruption and mismanagement had plunged the country into economic ruin even before last week's blasts. The international community, meanwhile, held a conference on Sunday and pledged $300 million in humanitarian aid to rebuild battered Beirut, with aid distribution to be coordinated by the UN. But the attendees, which included US President Donald Trump, the European Union, and the Gulf Arab states, said that the funds would not be released until the Lebanese government reforms its bloated, inefficient, and corrupt public sector. So far, Beirut's power brokers have resisted change. As rage on the streets intensifies — with angry protesters swarming the city center and setting public property and government buildings ablaze even after cabinet members resigned — it remains unclear who will run Lebanon going forward and guide the country's rebuilding process.

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"There have been more than 500 deaths of healthcare workers that we know of in this country and more than 80,000 infections of healthcare workers … These are mind-boggling numbers." Former CDC director Dr. Frieden on how the United States is failing the heroes who are fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. The fact that many still don't have access to basic personal protective equipment this far into the public health crisis is not just unacceptable. It's a symptom of how deeply flawed our healthcare system is as a whole.