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.
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A man eats by a newspaper stand that displays a cover story on the preliminary results of the general election in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, November 29, 2021

The small Central American nation of Honduras is in many ways a full blown narco-state. President Juan Orlando Hernandez – who’s governed the country for close to a decade – has been linked to the country’s booming drug trafficking trade. His brother Tony, a former congressman who is buds with Mexican drug lord El-Chapo, was sentenced to life-in prison this year for smuggling cocaine into the US. Narco-trafficking gangs run riot in the country, fueling one of the world’s highest murder rates, while corruption and poverty abound.

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The Graphic Truth: Who's arriving at the US-Mex border

Despite a recent dip, migrant arrivals at the US-Mexico border have surged over the past 10 months, driven by economic hardship, violence, and the perception that President Biden would be more welcoming to migrants than his predecessor. Most of those coming to the US from the South hail from Mexico, but a large number have also fled violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. We take a look at migration patterns from Central America in 2021 compared to 2020.

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the omicron variant, the Honduras presidential election, and the pros and cons of getting stuck in a UK pub for three days in a snowstorm.

As the omicron variant emerges, is a return to lockdown next?

The answer is, only in a few play places, because people are exhausted from lockdowns. They're angry with their governments from doing it. Governments are going to be very reluctant to have the economic hit as a consequence, especially when they know they can't pay out the relief money that they've been paying over the last couple of years, and they're not yet sure about just how much of a danger omicron is. I think all sorts of travel restrictions, but unless and until you see that the spread starts leading to significant lethality, hospitalizations, and once again, the potential for ICUs to be overwhelmed, I do not expect many significant lockdowns that are countrywide at this point. Not least in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the populations are very young and as a consequence, you can have a lot of spread and they're not paying attention to it, frankly.

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Eric Zemmour, presidential candidate for the 2022 election, speaks on French TV channel TF1.

Zemmour for president. After months of rising in opinion polls, far-right French polemicist Erich Zemmour has made it official: he’s running in next year’s French presidential election. Zemmour, who blames Muslims, liberals, elites, and the EU for what he sees as the decline and emasculation of France, says he is running in order to “prevent our children and our grandchildren from experiencing barbarity.” Could he win? Never say jamais these days, particularly as Zemmour has something of Donald Trump’s provocative star power and media savvy. Still, most polls show that while he could reach a second-round runoff against current President Emmanuel Macron, he would then lose decisively as moderates from across the political spectrum unite behind the incumbent. The more immediate political problem is for far-right stalwart Marine Le Pen who, in trying to broaden her appeal beyond the far right, now finds herself outflanked by the more unapologetically extreme Zemmour.

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Hard Numbers: China pledges jabs for Africa, Brazil burns boats, pub-bound Brits, billions without internet

1 billion: With the emergence of the (potentially dangerous) omicron variant in Southern Africa stoking fresh debate over vaccine hoarding in wealthy countries, China has announced it will deliver an additional 1 billion vaccine doses to the continent over the next three years.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Good morning everybody and I hope everyone is okay this Monday. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, those of you that celebrate. Of course, pretty difficult news over the weekend, and even this morning, the World Health Organization, referring to the new variant omicron of COVID as a very high global risk. And when I hear those words, obviously we get moving at Eurasia Group, a firm very much concerned about that. And indeed, this is in terms of new news about this pandemic that we've all been living with now for almost two years, this is some of the most concerning new headlines that we've seen thus far.

There are some things we know and some things we don't know, there are three things we need to know, if you want to really assess what the omicron risk represents for us and for the world: rates of infection, sickness and mortality and vaccine effectiveness. We only have strong answers about the first, which is we know that this is a lot more infectious as a variant than Delta has been, which itself was much more infectious than the original virus. And that is a very serious problem. I've spoken with a lot of the epidemiologists we know about this over the weekend, they're all extremely concerned about that.

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Don’t jump out the omicron window

With cases, and fears, of the new omicron variant spreading rapidly around the world, we sat down with Eurasia Group’s top public health expert, Scott Rosenstein, for a little perspective on what to worry about, what not to, and whether the pandemic will ever actually end.

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Don’t jump out the omicron window

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