What we’re watching: Tigray ceasefire, Peruvians protest endless election, North Koreans cry for Kim, Tour crash suspect vanishes

What we’re watching: Tigray ceasefire, Peruvians protest endless election, North Koreans cry for Kim, Tour crash suspect vanishes

Ceasefire in Ethiopia: In a stunning about-face, Ethiopian forces on Monday withdrew entirely from the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle, and declared an immediate, unilateral ceasefire. War has raged in Tigray since November, when a dispute over election dates ignited long-simmering tensions between Tigrayan militants and Ethiopian government forces. Since then Ethiopian government troops, aided by soldiers from neighboring Eritrea as well as irregulars from other parts of Ethiopia, have waged a brutal campaign in the region — pushing it to the brink of famine and, human rights watchdogs say, committing war crimes. In recent weeks, Tigrayan forces had mounted a forceful counterattack, regaining control over vast swaths of the region. The current ceasefire is meant to last until the end of the planting season, in September. Can the central government and the local Tigrayan leadership reach a more durable political agreement before then? After eight months of war, there is little trust and lots of bad blood.


Election protests in Peru: Elections aren't over until they're over. And even then, they aren't always over. According to the vote count in Peru's presidential election, left-wing schoolteacher Pedro Castillo defeated right-winger Keiko Fujimori by a margin of just 44,000 votes out of a total 19 million cast — that's a margin of about a tenth of a percentage point. International observers say the count is credible, but Fujimori, daughter of former strongman Alberto, has alleged fraud and demanded a recount of thousands of ballots. Although she hasn't supplied hard evidence, electoral authorities have said they'll take a second look. But that process itself has been marred by the resignation of one of the recount justices. All of which is to say: tensions are running high in the deeply polarized Andean nation, which is struggling with one of the worst COVID tolls in the world and recently had three presidents in the space of a week. Over the weekend supporters of both candidates took to the streets in the capital of Lima. With just weeks until the July 28 inauguration, tinderboxes come to mind as we watch the latest.

North Korea cries for Kim: As North Korean TV tells it, citizens of the totalitarian police state are in tears over recent pictures that showed their Dear Leader, Kim Jong Un, looking unusually thin and pallid. (Narrator: "unusually" thin for the 37-year old 5-foot-8 Kim means he seems to weigh a mere 260 pounds now rather than his previous 300, according to experts). The images had surfaced amid reports of growing food shortages, as the nuclear-armed autocracy grapples with sanctions over its nuclear program and border closures due to the pandemic. Given the opacity of North Korea and the lack of any clear successor, there is often speculation about Kim's health. Is the paunchy, hard-drinking, chainsmoker turning over a new leaf diet-wise? Or is he suffering a health issue that could raise questions about the future of the country? Here's a handkerchief if you too are welling up just reading about it.

A moron on the lam: What we know is this — a roadside spectator caused a massive crash during the opening moments of the Tour de France when she waved her "hi grandma" sign right into the path of the oncoming cyclists. One racer hit the sign and went down, taking dozens with him. But here's what we don't know — where is she now? Race authorities want to sue her, but reports say the woman, believed to be German, has fled the country in a "breakaway" of her own. Is this going to become an EU extradition crisis? An Interpol intrigue? We don't know, but between this and those chainsaw-wielding maniacs who chased Colombian superstar cyclist Egan Bernal up the Alps in the Giro d'Italia last month, we're thinking pro-cyclists are probably a little on edge these days.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

16: Rich countries have secured 16 times more COVID vaccine supplies than developing nations that rely on the struggling COVAX facility, according to analysis by the Financial Times. COVAX is steadily losing bargaining power to buy vaccines at low prices due to the combined effects of booster shots being doled out in developed countries, as well as low-income countries deciding to buy jabs on their own.

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