What We're Watching: Tick Tock for TikTok, Netanyahu loses support, Guyana's new president
TikTok, ya don't stop: The wildly popular video app TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American lawmakers for many months now. Why? Because the app is owned by a Chinese company, raising national security concerns that it could funnel personal data on its 100 million American users to the Chinese government. The plot thickened in recent days after President Trump abruptly threatened to ban the app altogether, risking a backlash among its users and imperiling US tech giant Microsoft's efforts to buy the company's operations in the US. Canada, Australia and New Zealand. After a weekend conversation between Microsoft and the White House, the sale negotiations are back on but US lawmakers say any deal must strictly prevent American users' data from winding up in Chinese Communist Party servers. And Trump says that unless a deal is reached by September 15th, he'll go ahead with the ban. The broader fate of TikTok — which has now been banned in India, formerly its largest market, and may be broken up under US pressure — nicely illustrates the new "tech Cold War" that is emerging between China and the United States.
Guyana finally swears in a new leader: After months of political wrangling, an election recount and a series of court challenges, the small South American nation of Guyana has sworn in opposition candidate Mohamed Irfaan Ali as president. Although Ali edged out the incumbent, David Granger, by just 15,000 votes, Granger's governing party says the vote was rigged and that it will continue to challenge the outcome. The new president will now be responsible for guiding this nation through what is set to be one of the of the world's most dramatic increases in national wealth, after large reserves of crude oil were discovered in the country in 2015. Ali will have to figure out how to spend the new oil revenue to combat the country's pandemic-induced economic downturn, as well as try to tamp down rising tensions between his own supporters who are mostly of South Asian origin, and the defeated incumbent's mostly Black voter base.
Anti-Netanyahu movement swells: Ever since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted in January on a host of corruption charges there have been frequent protests calling for his resignation. But Saturday saw the most massive demonstrations yet, as thousands gathered near the PM's Jerusalem residence. The protesters — hailing from across the political spectrum and including some former Bibi supporters — took aim at the government's poor handling of the twin public health and economic crises. Despite early success in containing the virus, the country's unwieldy unity government has botched its pandemic response in recent months. A hasty reopening has allowed the coronavirus to begin spreading again like wildfire, and a whopping 21 percent of the population is now unemployed. The government has failed to provide economic relief and Israel's GDP is expected to contract by at least 6 percent this year. Netanyahu, for his part, has lashed out at the "North Korean" style media for fueling the "distorted" protests, a sign, observers say, of his growing panic as the leaderless protest movement gains momentum. Particularly ominous for Netanyahu is that security hawks and right wing voters typically aligned with Netanyahu's Likud party are increasingly losing faith in him, and are now joining left-wing activists calling for the PM's resignation. Is "King Bibi's" throne finally creaking?