What We're Watching: Turkey's (latest) currency collapse, US-EU sanction China, Slovakia's Sputnik crisis

Pigeons fly in front of a large poster of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Bursa, Turkey, April 6, 2019.

Turkey's president has himself a big (bad) weekend: The Turkish lira on Monday lost 15 percent of its value against the US dollar after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked his Central Bank head Naci Agbal. What was Agbal's offense? He had raised interest rates in order to combat rising inflation. That's a pretty standard policy response, but Erdogan hates higher rates since they (deliberately) cool the bank lending and consumer spending that keeps voters happy. The currency plunge, which will now likely stoke further inflation, is the largest one-day lira selloff in three years, and puts Turkey on the brink of a fresh currency crisis. Also this weekend, Erdogan provoked protests after withdrawing his country from a European treaty meant to stop violence against women. Erdogan and his allies view (Turkish) the treaty as an alien concept that aims to weaken the "traditional social fabric." Meanwhile, local activists and watchdogs say violence against women in the country has surged in recent years.

US, EU, and allies sanction China: The US, Britain, Canada, and the EU on Monday announced new coordinated sanctions on China over Beijing's human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. More than one million Uighurs are believed to have been locked up since 2017 as part of what Beijing describes as a benign "deradicalization campaign," but which is widely believed to be a network of internment camps where minorities are held indefinitely without trial. Several Chinese individuals involved in the mass detainment project will now be sanctioned, as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, which the EU says is responsible for "large-scale arbitrary detentions" in China. This is the first time that the European Community has hit China with sanctions since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. In response, a furious Beijing slapped retaliatory sanctions on 10 European officials, denouncing Brussels' "gross interference" in its internal affairs. Coming amid deepening US-China tensions over trade, human rights, and technology, we are watching to see if Beijing hits back at Washington too.

Sputnik injects a political crisis into Slovakia: Earlier this month, the Slovak government, struggling with rising coronavirus cases and a sluggish EU vaccine rollout, bypassed EU authorities and ordered several hundred thousand doses of the Russian made Sputnik V jab. The move immediately provoked a political crisis, as two of the four parties in Prime Minister Igor Matovič's coalition demanded he resign and threatened to withdraw from government over the move to take vaccines from Russia, which haven't been approved by the European Medicines Agency. Matovič's health minister resigned last week and now the PM himself says he is willing to step down in order to end the crisis. But there's a catch: members of other parties would have to relinquish their cabinet posts too, and so far that's a non-starter. Matovič, in power barely a year, heads a coalition of parties elected to clean up corruption after the murder of a high-profile investigative journalist rocked the nation. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has tested the coalition's resilience. Slovakia — with a population of 5.4 million — has the world's 12th highest COVID death rate per 100 people.

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Does the EU really have a foreign policy?

For decades, European leaders have debated the question of whether Europe should have a common foreign policy that’s independent of the United States.

Germany, the UK, and countries situated closest to Russia have traditionally preferred to rely on membership in NATO and US military strength to safeguard European security at a cost affordable for them.

French leaders, by contrast, have argued that, with or without NATO, Europe needs an approach to foreign-policy questions that doesn’t depend on alignment, or even agreement, with Washington.

There are those within many EU countries who agree that Europe must speak with a single clear voice if the EU is to promote European values and protect European interests in a world of US, Chinese, and Russian power.

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The politics of US crime: Perception vs reality

A recent spate of violent crimes in New York City has made national headlines. Since Eric Adams was sworn in four weeks ago as mayor of America’s most populous city, violence on the streets — and the subways — has again become a major political focus. Things got even more heated this week, when two young cops were killed while responding to a domestic dispute in Harlem.

Crime is not only a dominant political issue in New York. It also resonates more broadly with American voters worried over increased lawlessness and unrest. Indeed, crime is already shaping up to be a wedge issue as Republicans vie to win control of the US Congress this November.

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Hard Numbers: South China Sea jet search, US economy surges, Cuban protesters charged, Africa gets vaxxed

FILE PHOTO of a F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Jan. 14, 2022.


100 million: The US Navy is scrambling to find a $100 million F-35 stealth fighter jet that crashed and sank soon after taking off on Monday from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. One expert described the Cold War-ish race to locate the remains — stocked with classified equipment — before the Chinese do as "basically The Hunt For Red October meets The Abyss."

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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a pipe at the Chelyabinsk pipe rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020.

Nord Stream 2 used as a bargaining chip with Russia. The US now says that if Russia invades Ukraine, it’ll block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to transfer even more natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. This is a big deal, considering that Germany – thirsty for more Russian gas – has long been pushing for the pipeline to start operating despite ongoing objections from Washington. The $11 billion energy project, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany, is seen as (a big) part of the reason why Berlin is reluctant to push back hard against the Kremlin over its troop buildup at the Ukrainian border. Still, German officials admit Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions if the Russians invade, suggesting that the Americans’ threat was likely coordinated with Berlin in advance. This comes amid ongoing diplomatic attempts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, with US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to meet at the White House on February 7.

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Putin Has a “Noose” Around Ukraine, Says Russia Analyst Alina Polyakova | GZERO World

What’s going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind? That’s the million-dollar question.

Ukraine and Russia analyst Alina Polyakova doesn’t think it’s anything good.

Russia's president, she says, has put a “noose” around Ukraine with a troop build-up along the border that could spell invasion in the near term. The US has led an effort to deescalate the situation through diplomacy.

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The AI Addiction Cycle | GZERO World

Ever wonder why everything seems to be a major crisis these days? For former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, it's because artificial intelligence has determined that's the only way to get your attention.

What's more, it's driving an addiction cycle among humans that will lead to enormous depression and dissatisfaction.

"Oh my God there's another message. Oh my God, there's another crisis. Oh my God, there's another outrage. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," he says. "I don't think humans, at least in modern society where [we’ve] evolved to be in an 'Oh my God' situation all day."

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Merkin' It With Angela Merkel | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

Angela Merkel is retired — but only from politics. Still, maybe she's not as good at other jobs as she was as German chancellor.


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The AI addiction cycle

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