What We’re Watching: Protests Erupt in Indonesia

What We’re Watching: Protests Erupt in Indonesia

Massive Protests in Indonesia: This week, tens of thousands of students clashed with police on the streets of Jakarta and other large cities as part of ongoing demonstrations triggered by two controversies: President Joko Widodo's move to curb a major anti-corruption agency and his apparent support for a new criminal code bill, strongly supported by Indonesia's growing Islamist movement, that would outlaw premarital sex, limit gay rights, and curb free speech. The students also want the government to punish companies that have set thousands of fires in Indonesia's forests to clear land for palm oil plantations. Joko's common touch and commitment to build better infrastructure brought him to power five years ago as a political outsider. In April, he easily won re-election, though some questioned his decision to run alongside a hardline Islamist cleric. As he enters his second and final term, the appearance that he's caving to pressure from business oligarchs and conservative clerics has taken a bite out of his once sky-high popularity. Does he need to make these concessions in order to govern effectively? We're watching to see how Joko squares this circle.


The Big Vote You Might Have Missed: Buried beneath the impeachment story this week was another US political bombshell: The US Senate passed a resolution which effectively kills President Trump's declaration of a "national emergency" at the US-Mexico border. On Wednesday, 11 Republican senators joined Democrats to strike down the president's declaration, issued in February, which allowed his administration to bypass congressional approval to divert money toward construction of his border wall. The administration has already used the declaration to divert $3.6 billion from congressionally approved military construction projects to fund the barrier. The Senate passed a similar resolution back in March, and Trump swiftly vetoed it. But as he faces a lengthy impeachment battle and needs Republican unity in the Senate, we're watching to see if Trump chooses a different strategy this time.

The Monday Dilemma: In Mestre, a suburb of Venice, Italian police recently imposed a fine of €350 on a Nigerian migrant named Monday. His offense? Sweeping garbage off the streets (only trucks are permitted to do this). A public backlash that followed persuaded police to cancel the fine. This story raises an important problem for the future. In coming years, migration to wealthy countries is set to increase. But it will also become harder for migrants to find productive work as automation sweeps up more and more menial jobs. What happens to those who want to justify their presence by performing useful work when more of the world's menial labor is performed by machines?

The Death of Chameleon Bonaparte: Jacques Chirac had many nicknames, some of them too vulgar for inclusion here, but his death on Thursday gives us pause for thought. The former French president, known for decades of corruption scandals and a theatrically avuncular speaking style, was a political giant. His critics say he stood for nothing. His backers insist he stood for France. His political gifts were undeniable, and we'll remember Jacques Chirac as the superstar shape-shifter with a deep feel for his country's hopes and fears.

What We're Ignoring

The Pope's Assault on Adjectives: "Let us learn to call people by their name, as the Lord does with us, and to give up using adjectives." So tweeted Pope Francis this week in a plea for concise expression. "We have forgotten the strength of nouns," he said in a speech on Monday. "Why say authentically Christian? It is Christian! … it is an adjective noun, yes, but it is a noun." Your Friday author shares the Pope's yearning to prune the world's verbiage, including our own. But we're respectfully (that's an adverb) ignoring His Holiness on this one, because adjectives are like candy, and your Signal authors can't live on bread alone.

Labradoodle Regrets: In a recent interview, Wally Conron, the first person to cross-breed a Labrador with a poodle, says his creation is his "life's regret" and that he hasn't "got a clue" why people still breed these dogs. It's a little late for that, Wally. Labradoodles are everywhere. And don't make it worse for yourself by using adjectives in the confessional #ReadYourMaryShelley.

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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