What We’re Watching: US hits Turkey, EU stands up to Big Tech, Xinjiang’s cotton-picking forced labor

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their joint news conference following Russian-Turkish talks in the Black sea resort of Sochi. Reuters

US sanctions Turkey: The US has imposed sanctions against NATO ally Turkey over its deployment of a surface-to-air missile system purchased from Russia that US officials say is incompatible with NATO technology, and finances Russia's defense industry. In response, Turkey has warned that it will "retaliate in a manner and time it sees appropriate." In recent years, Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has often tried to improve relations with Vladimir Putin's government to protest what he sees as overbearing behavior from Europe and the United States. But his combative, sometimes abrasive, personal and political style has repeatedly run the risk of isolating Turkey and exposing its economy to a lot of foreign pressure.


Will the EU break up Big Tech? The European Union has unveiled two proposals to curb the power of US tech giants that do business within the union. Brussels, wary of how powerful these firms have become, plans to offer new legal protections to small app developers and to allow users to uninstall pre-loaded apps from their devices. If tech companies fail to comply, they would face fines of up to 10 percent of their annual global revenue. And if they breach the rules often enough, the EU could break up these companies as the US Congress has threatened to do over their monopolistic practices, use of private data, and failure to stem the flow of online misinformation. Though these EU proposals have not yet become law, they signal that European regulators are prepared to be much more aggressive than their American counterparts in coming years with firms like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

China's dirty cotton: Chinese authorities have been accused of forcing more than half a million Uighur Muslims in the far-west region of Xinjiang to pick cotton that is then used in exported Chinese-made clothing. Uncovered Chinese documents corroborate satellite evidence that China runs large-scale internment camps in Xinjiang where up to a million Muslims have been imprisoned. (Beijing claims the camps are used for "vocational training.") But this new evidence will force many of China's commercial partners to choose between continuing to accept apparel possibly made from slave labor or boycott the products and brave China's economic retribution. In the United States, in particular, the use of minority slaves to pick cotton could hardly be more provocative.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky facts about the Games that have many people on edge.

Today — what's the smallest country (by population) to win a gold medal in a summer Olympics?

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