What We're Watching: Protests spread to Pakistan

What We're Watching: Protests spread to Pakistan

Pakistan gets the protest bug - Thousands of anti-government protesters descended on the capital Islamabad yesterday, demanding the resignation of cricketer-turned-Prime Minister Imran Khan. The protests, dubbed a "freedom march," were organized by religious groups and political rivals who say the government is illegitimate, installed last year in elections rigged by the country's powerful military. The protesters are also mad about Khan's failure to weed out corruption and revive the economy: Pakistan's fiscal deficit has ballooned, and the rupee continues to plunge. Reports have surfaced that Pakistan's army chief is unhappy with the Prime Minister's handling of the economy and could soon oust him.


Chile cancels major summits amid unrest - Chile has pulled out of hosting two major international summits after government concessions failed to calm weeks of unrest over economic inequality that have left at least 20 people dead. President Sebastian Pinera said that Chile would no longer host next month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit or December's COP25, the UN's annual climate conference. Organizers of both events are now scrambling to find alternative hosting options. We note that Donald Trump and Xi Jinping were supposed to meet on the sidelines of the APEC gathering to try and ink a partial trade deal. Spain has since stepped up to host the climate summit, but the outcome of APEC remains unknown.

China's Asian trade deal of the century - In just a few days, China is looking for a breakthrough on a massive new Asian free trade deal with countries that account for almost a third of the world economy. The deal, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), was once seen as little more than a feeble, China-oriented alternative to the much more ambitious Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations that were being led by the United States, without China. But the Trump administration ditched the TPP in early 2017, making RCEP a hot ticket. When Asian leaders meet in Bangkok today, Beijing is hoping to move the deal forward by getting India, the main holdout, to agree to a "substantial conclusion" of the deal. New Delhi has raised concerns about competition from Chinese imports, but also doesn't want to be left out of a trade pact run by its main economic rival.

What We're Ignoring:

Peace Train for the author of Peace Spring - Yusuf Islam, the folk-rock singer/songwriter formerly known as Cat Stevens, had a prolific music career thanks to sentimental hits like "Father and Son" and "Wild World." That is, until the late 1970s when he converted to Islam and quit making secular music for almost thirty years. The British national has now turned up in an unexpected place: Turkey, paying a visit to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to present him with a "peace train" named after another hit song of his (yes, there are photos). We're ignoring this because "peace" doesn't really come to mind when we think of the Turkish leader's current "Peace Spring" military campaign in northern Syria.

CORRECTION: This piece originally listed "Cat's in the Cradle" as a Stevens song, which it is not. It is by Harry Chaplin. We regret the error and apologize to little boy blue.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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