What We're Watching: UN blasts rich vaccine hoarders, Hotel Rwanda hero on trial, Facebook unfriends Australia

What We're Watching: UN blasts rich vaccine hoarders, Hotel Rwanda hero on trial, Facebook unfriends Australia

UN demands equitable vaccine rollout: After revealing that 10 wealthy countries have bought up a whopping three-quarters of available COVID vaccines while 130 nations have yet to receive a single dose, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on Thursday for a global vaccination plan so everyone can roll out vaccines as soon as possible. Guterres' appeal comes as COVAX — the global facility that aims to provide vaccines to the developing world — has already fallen behind on its goal to inoculate at least 20 percent of the world's population by the end of 2021. Fed up with the delay, in recent weeks many developing countries have bypassed COVAX to purchase their own jabs directly from China, India, and Russia. But even scaling up private deals won't be enough to offset what the World Health Organization has dubbed the "moral failure" of leaving poor nations behind on vaccinations. There are also economic considerations at play: vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations could cost the global economy as much as $9.2 trillion this year, according to an ICC study. We're watching to see if the UN's task force will do anything to move the needle on equitable vaccine distribution, because the world is not going back to normal until most countries get jabs into arms.


Hotel Rwanda hero's trial begins: Former hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina — famous for the Hotel Rwanda biopic — is credited with saving over 1,200 Tutsis and Hutus during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. His heroism earned him international accolades, including a US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. As Rusesabagina's star rose, he used his platform to criticize Rwanda's President Paul Kagame for human rights abuses and stifling dissent. Now, Rusesabagina, — a citizen of Belgium and US permanent resident — is standing trial in Rwanda, charged with murder and being a member of a terrorist organization. Authorities say the charges are linked to Rusesabagina's support for the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, accused of coordinating a string of attacks by rebel groups in southern Rwanda in 2018. But supporters of Rusesabagina say that the trial is a sham, and retaliation for his public criticism of Kagame, who has ruled the country with a strong hand since ending the civil war in the mid-1990s. The European Parliament, meanwhile, criticized Kigali for breaching the human rights of Rusesabagina, who was kidnapped last fall in Dubai, and has been held in solitary confinement ever since.

Facebook blocks news in Australia: In response to a proposed Australian law that would make Big Tech firms pay for news content shared on their sites, Facebook has banned Australian Facebook users from reading or accessing news on the platform. Content produced by Australian media outlets is now also unavailable on Facebook feeds outside of the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacted on Facebook, posting that the company's actions — including temporarily blocking information from health and emergency services improperly classified as news — "were as arrogant as they were disappointing." Morrison drew a sharp contrast between Facebook's aggressive swipe at Canberra with the more compromising approach shown by fellow Big Tech firm Google, which previously threatened to cut off Australians from its search engine over the same proposed law but this week agreed to pay for news content from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire. Facebook's news ban in Australia is just part of a growing worldwide debate over whether Big Tech companies should be on the hook for news content created by independent media outlets that is shared on their platforms without remuneration. We'll be watching to see how the dispute plays out in Australia, and how it might impact similar debates playing out in Europe and the US.

Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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We expect the usual suspects — US, China, Russia — to dominate the Olympic medal tally. But how should the performances of large, well-resourced countries really be assessed? Drawing on a model first developed by a team of labor economists, the Financial Times looks at a range of factors — including past medal hauls, population size, and GDP per capita — to determine whether nations have surpassed or failed to meet expectations at the Tokyo Games. We take a look at the biggest under-performers and over-performers per the model, and whether people in these countries really care about the Olympics at all.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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