What We're Watching: Sudan's Generals and Northern Ireland

Sudan's Continuing Strife – The protesters weren't satisfied when Sudan's military ousted Omar Bashir after 30 years in power. Or when Bashir found himself behind bars. Nor did they return home when the generals promised a "military council" that would forge a path to civilian rule within two years. The protesters want a civilian government led by the political opposition, and they want it right now. The military has been reluctant to clear the streets, but something's got to give. This story is no longer about the fate of Bashir but the (immediate) future of Sudan.

Northern Ireland – When a masked gunman, still at large, shot and killed journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland last week, it was a reminder of how fragile the peace that has prevailed there since the Good Friday agreement 21 years ago really is. It also gives grim weight to one of the most difficult Brexit questions: If a hard border must be restored between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in order to separate the EU from the UK, might we see a return to the violence of decades past? At a time when a new generation too young to remember the Troubles or the peace agreement that ended them is becoming more active in the life of Northern Ireland, the answers to more immediate questions will offer some clues: Will the community help police find the gunman? And how will the public respond when an arrest is made?

What We're Ignoring: Yellow Vests Complaining About Notre Dame and Libertarians in Hot Water

The latest yellow vest protests – A fresh round of gilets jaunes demonstrations in Paris over the weekend featured signs like "Millions for Notre Dame, what about for us, the poor?" and "Everything for Notre Dame, nothing for Les Misérables." Members of the crowd were voicing frustration that fundraising efforts to restore Paris's partially destroyed Notre-Dame cathedral have raised over $1 billion, while their concerns have yet to be fully addressed. We're ignoring these new complaints, because French President Emmanuel Macron has already announced 10 billion euros of budget giveaways to assuage the yellow vests, and because we suspect the broader French public doesn't see support for a cultural treasure and support for the downtrodden as a zero-sum game.

Seasteaders abandoning ship – An American Bitcoin enthusiast and his girlfriend have scarpered from their home on a floating platform off the coast of Thailand after the country accused the pair of violating Thailand's national sovereignty – a crime that can lead to the death penalty. Michigan native Chad Elwartowski and his Thai companion had appeared in a video touting the virtues of "seasteading" – a movement championed by Silicon Valley types who dream of setting up sovereign floating communities where people can live free from government interference. The Thai navy ignored Elwartowski's protests that his home was located in international waters and dismantled the custom-built rig. We are ignoring seasteading, because this story shows how utopian fantasies are no match for an actual navy.

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This weekend, world leaders will open the COP26 climate summit, the UN's annual climate change conference, in Glasgow. Some insist this event is crucial to the multinational fight to limit the effects of climate change; others dismiss it as a circus that will feature politicos, protesters and celebrities competing for attention – one that's long on lofty promises and short on substance.

What's on the agenda?

Political leaders and negotiators from more than 120 countries will gather to talk about two big subjects. First, how to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists warn can inflict catastrophic damage on millions of people. This is where they'll offer their "nationally determined contributions," diplomatic jargon for their updated promises on their climate goals. Second, how to help poorer countries pay for adaptation to the climate damage that's already unavoidable.

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Iran to resume nuclear talks — but it might be too late. Iran's top negotiator says that his country is now ready to rejoin talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Those negotiations have been on ice since June, when a hardline new Iranian president was "elected." But hopes for a breakthrough are slim. For one thing, Iran and the US still disagree about who should do what first: Tehran wants the toughest US sanctions lifted immediately, while the Americans say no way until Iran stops steaming ahead with its nuclear programs. (For a good primer, check out this Puppet Regime.) The other big obstacle now is that since Donald Trump ditched the deal in 2018, Iran has made immense progress in enriching uranium, breaking through all the limits set by the original agreement. Reviving that pact would now entail forcing the Iranians to give that all up, which Iran's hardline leadership is very unlikely to do, while Washington certainly won't want to write up a new deal that accepts Iran's recent nuclear activity — in fact, the Biden administration is under pressure to impose fresh sanctions. Fresh talks are good, but things don't look promising.

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Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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11: Hit by a massive new COVID wave, Moscow has issued an 11-day lockdown of schools, businesses, and all "non-essential" services. Russia is now one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, having recorded 400,000 deaths by some estimates. Russia's high rate of vaccine skepticism isn't helping.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company sided pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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No government today has the toolbox to tinker with Big Tech – that's why it's time to start thinking of the biggest tech companies as bona fide "digital nation states" with their own foreign relations, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. Never has a small group of companies held such an expansive influence over humanity. And in this vast new digital territory, governments have little idea what to do.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

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