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What We’re Watching: Suu Kyi charged, Draghi back in Italy, Russian jabs for (some) Ukrainians

What We’re Watching: Suu Kyi charged, Draghi back in Italy, Russian jabs for Ukraine separatists

Myanmar junta charges Suu Kyi: Days after taking over in a coup, the newly minted military rulers in Myanmar have slapped Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's recently deposed de facto leader, with a flurry of frivolous charges. Among other grave offenses, the Nobel laureate is accused of a vague conspiracy to illegally import walkie-talkies for legal cover to justify her long-term arrest pending an eventual trial. Meanwhile, Western countries are calling for her release because they are "concerned" about the erosion of democracy in Myanmar. But virtue-signaling and even threats of new international sanctions from the US and the EU are unlikely to move the generals, who can look to their trusted allies in China and Russia after they both blocked a UN condemnation of the putsch. We're watching to see how long the West will continue to be interested in Suu Kyi and Myanmar, and how the junta balances forging stronger ties with Beijing without becoming China's puppet.

Can "Super Mario" save Italy? Former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi has accepted Italian President Sergio Mattarella's offer to try to form a new coalition government, following outgoing PM Giuseppe Conte's resignation a week ago. Draghi — known to his fans as "Super Mario" for preventing the collapse of the Eurozone in the wake of the Great Financial Crisis of 2009 — has a tough task ahead. The previous cabinet headed by Conte, a political outsider like Draghi, collapsed in mid-January after a junior partner walked away because of a dispute over how to spend EU coronavirus relief money. And Draghi is presumably aware that the last economist to hold the job, Mario Monti in 2011-2013, was dropped by his own supporters in the cabinet after he proposed too much austerity to address the country's debt crisis. Will Draghi's international fame and track record be enough to convince lawmakers to back a new coalition government? Or will they balk, pushing Italy towards a pandemic general election that the far-right Lega party and its allies are favored to win?

Moscow gives jabs to Ukraine separatists: Even as the government of Ukraine struggles to get enough coronavirus vaccines for its 40 million people, separatists in the east of the country have begun an inoculation drive with thousands of the Russian-made Sputnik V jabs. Leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics — which have been supported by Russia since breaking away in 2014 — said that doctors and soldiers would be first in line. Meanwhile in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has seen his approval rating plunge to below 20 percent (source in Russian), in part because of the slow rollout of vaccines. Ukraine is expecting 8 million doses from the global COVAX facility, and 1.9 million from China's Sinopharm, but his country is — as ever — caught in the middle of things: unable to access EU vaccination schemes because it is not a member, but left out in the cold by Russia, a country with which it is still at war. "We are not a priority," Zelenskiy lamented in a recent interview with Axios.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics in Washington, DC:

Another stimulus bill is about to pass the Senate. Why won't the minimum wage be going up?

Well, the problem with the minimum wage is it didn't have the 50 votes it needed to overcome the procedural hurdles that prevent the minimum wage when traveling with the stimulus bill. Clearly support for $15 an hour minimum wage in the House of Representatives, but there's probably somewhere between 41 and 45 votes for it in the Senate. There may be a compromise level that emerges later in the year as some Republicans have indicated, they'd be willing to support a lower-level minimum wage increase. But typically, those proposals come along with policies that Democrats find unacceptable, such as an employment verification program for any new hire in the country. Labor unions have been really, really fixated on getting a $15 an hour minimum wage. They may not be up for a compromise. So, we'll see what happens.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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