What We're Watching: Support for Australian PM plunges

What We're Watching: Support for Australian PM plunges

Support for Australian PM plunges: Public support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison has plunged to a new low amid widespread dissatisfaction over his government's management of the months-long bushfire disaster. Morrison's approval rating dropped 8 percent in the last month, hovering at 37 percent, according to a Newspoll survey. The poll – taken after the Prime Minister announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund to manage the infernos that have razed more than 27 million acres of land – suggests that, for many Australians, the government's response is "too little too late." "MISSING" posters featuring a Hawaiian-shirt clad Morrison have been plastered around Australia– a reference to his decision to vacation in Hawaii last month as fires ravaged the country. Morrison has also been criticized for refusing to compensate volunteers who bear the brunt of firefighting, though he eventually acquiesced. Australia's next election is still two years away: Will Morrison be able to weather the political storms or will public resentment over his handling of the crisis remain in the public consciousness?


A worrisome outcome for China in Taiwan: Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, won 57 percent of the vote in elections on Saturday, securing a second term in office. It was a stunning victory for the pro-independence politician, who just 12 months ago trailed in the polls – and a stunning rebuke for China's President Xi Jinping. Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party also held on to its majority in Taiwan's legislative assembly, beating back a challenge from the more China-friendly Kuomintang amid record turnout. The landslide victory for Tsai, who ran on a pro-sovereignty platform, is a clear sign of public resistance to Beijing's "one country, two systems" rhetoric after months of crackdowns on anti-government protests in Hong Kong. We're watching to see how Xi responds.

The death of a Sultan: By all accounts, Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, was a man of dignity and moderation. These qualities distinguished him as a determined peacemaker. He supported the 1979 peace deal between Egypt and Israel when no other Arab government would, and he hosted the first secret US-Iran talks in more than three decades. Those talks led to negotiations that ended in the Iran nuclear agreement now in shambles. But that's not why people across the Middle East will remember him. His true legacy is that, during his nearly 50-year rule, he used the country's oil wealth to lift Oman from medieval poverty to the digital age, created a sense of national identity in a place it had never existed, and advanced reforms that empowered Oman's women and girls.

What We're Ignoring

Billionaires bound for the moon: A 44-year-old Japanese internet billionaire who snagged a ticket to the moon on a spaceship built by Tesla founder Elon Musk is looking for that "special someone" to accompany him on the voyage. Yusaku Maezawa last week announced a new reality TV contest to find the perfect person to join him on his private lunar mission. We're ignoring this contest…unless he decides to take Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive French millionaire businessman who recently escaped from Japanese justice. Sadly, Maezawa insists his contest is open only to "single women aged 20 or over," and Ghosn is no one's idea of "arm candy."

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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More than 930 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have already been administered globally, and another 1 billion more are expected to be manufactured by the end of May. Most of the manufacturing is concentrated in a small group of countries. While some — like China, for instance — are exporting roughly half of the shots they make, others — mainly the US — are keeping most of the supply for domestic use. Meanwhile, export controls have been a particularly thorny issue in the European Union and India, where governments have come under intense pressure to stop sending vaccines to other parts of the world amid sluggish rollouts at home. We take a look at what the world's top manufacturers are doing with the vaccines they are producing.

Ian Bremmer explains how a fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, in the summer of 1969, set the conservation movement ablaze in the United States. A TIME Magazine article about the fire led to the Clean Water Act, creation of the EPA, and the first Earth Day—April 22, 1970. Over 50 years later, citizens of the world agree that climate change is a global emergency. But how can nations come together to find solutions that are truly attainable?

Watch the GZERO World episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

US President Joe Biden's highly anticipated two-day climate summit opens on Thursday, when dozens of world leaders and bigshot CEOs will gather (virtually) to try to save the planet. Above all, the US is looking to showcase the idea that "America is back" on climate change. But will other countries buy it?

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55: EU governments on Wednesday reached a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by the end of the decade. The commitment is in line with the bloc's broader goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050.

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