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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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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:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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