What We’re Watching: Salvini's Next Move

What We’re Watching: Salvini's Next Move

Salvini's next move From his post as interior minister, the charismatic Matteo Salvini has cut a dominant figure in Italian politics for the past year. Boosted by the popularity of his hardline approaches toward North African migrants and EU officials, Salvini believed that forcing early elections would make him prime minister. He figured the populist Five Star Movement (5SM) and center left Democratic Party (PD) would never find enough common ground to form a coalition government without Lega, his party. Turns out 5SM and PD do share one thing: they can't stand Matteo Salvini. They've now agreed to form a government. For now, Salvini will settle into the role of opposition leader, a natural fit for his firebrand talents. He's already called for a protest in Rome on October 19. But his quest to eventually become prime minister will continue.


Somalia's climate emergency – Aid agencies warn that two million people in Somalia already face severe hunger, and three million more don't know where their next meal will come from. Following severe droughts in recent years—and evidence that the frequency and duration of droughts has increased—Somalia offers the latest case study in how climate issues can combine with political instability, corruption, and terrorism to create humanitarian emergencies.

Chinese media's Hong Kong spin – Chinese state media have tried just about every approach in covering the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, according to BBC Monitoring. They've tried to ignore them, blamed them on "foreign agents," portrayed protesters as dangerous hooligans, argued that a silent majority of Hong Kongers disapprove of the demonstrations, and highlighted foreigners living in Hong Kong who praise China and pro-China protests led by Chinese nationals living in Western countries. They've even used Chinese celebrities—actresses, models, and members of boy bands–to talk up China and chastise the demonstrators. But none of this has quelled the public anger in Hong Kong, so we're watching to see what Chinese media try next.

"War and Peace" in India – A year ago, five activists were arrested in Mumbai and charged with instigating caste-based violence. This week, a judge in Mumbai made news by demanding to know why a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace was found in one of the defendant's homes. Why did the defendant have an interest, asked the judge, in learning about "war in another country?" This episode leaves us wondering about Crime and Punishment in India.

What We're Ignoring

Slovenia's Trump Statue – We're ignoring this 25-foot-tall statue of Donald Trump that appeared recently in his wife's home country of Slovenia because it's weird, creepy, and doesn't look that much like him.
People working at computers in a room labeled Malware Lab

Microsoft observed destructive malware in systems belonging to several Ukrainian government agencies and organizations that work closely with the Ukrainian government. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) published a technical blog post detailing Microsoft’s ongoing investigation and how the security community can detect and defend against this malware. Microsoft shared this information over the weekend to help others in the cybersecurity community look out for and defend against these attacks. To read more visit Microsoft On the Issues.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Happy Tuesday after the long weekend for those of us that had a long weekend. I thought I would kick us off with the first major foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration. And that is of course, Russia-Ukraine. Afghanistan, of course, was a debacle, but not exactly a global crisis. This of course has the potential to really change the way we think about European security and about US relations with the other major nuclear power in the world. So, I would say that the level of concern is even higher and there are a lot of things we can say.
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The looming pandemic debt cliff

Right on the buzzer, Sri Lanka on Tuesday narrowly avoided its first-ever default on its sovereign debt. But the cash-strapped country is still on the hook for a lot more cash this year, which is shaping up to be a very painful one for low-income countries deep in the red due to COVID.

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The Graphic Truth: Deep in the red with China

The pandemic has thrown many already-indebted countries further into the red. The problem is two-pronged for many Asian, African, and Latin American countries. They have taken on huge amounts of debt from the IMF to weather pandemic-related economic uncertainty, while also being caught up in a debt trap set by China, which funds large infrastructure projects in developing states but often with complex or misleading fine print. We take a look at which countries out of a group of 24 surveyed states owe China the most compared to their respective IMF debts.

Ukrainian former President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he walks to address supporters upon arrival at Zhulyany airport in Kyiv, Ukraine January 17, 2022.

Ukraine’s political woes. While Russia maintains tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, domestic politics in Kyiv are becoming increasingly contentious. This week, former President Petro Poroshenko – who was elected in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution ousted a longtime Putin ally and then defeated for re-election in 2019 – has now returned to Ukraine after a month abroad to face a host of criminal charges. Those charges include treason, an alleged crime related to his decision to sign government contracts to buy coal from mines held by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Poronshenko, a businessman worth $1.6 billion, says the deal was necessary to keep Ukraine from economic collapse and that the charges are an attempt by current President Volodomyr Zelensky to distract from unfavorable perceptions of the country’s (currently lousy) economic outlook. He also calls it a manufactured crisis and a “gift” to the Kremlin, because it distracts from Russia’s ongoing aggression.

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The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

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A newborn baby is seen being cared for in the ward of the hospital neonatal care center. The results of the seventh national census of China will be released soon, and some institutions predict that the birth rate will be lower than the death rate for the first time.

7.52: Birth rates in China dropped to a record low 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021, down from 10.41 in 2019. This comes as the Chinese Communist Party is trying very hard to boost birth rates to revive a slowing economy.

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China’s homegrown COVID vaccines were once crucial — but they're not as effective against omicron as mRNA jabs.

What's more, with with local cases near zero for the better part of the pandemic, most Chinese have no natural immunity. That could spell disaster for Beijing as omicron surges.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, warns that the highly transmissible new variant will make zero COVID harder and harder to sustain.

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