What We’re Watching: Venezuela Unplugged

What We’re Watching: Venezuela Unplugged

Is Moscow Dropping Maduro?
Moscow has removed the bulk of its defense advisers from Venezuela, because the cash-strapped regime of Nicolas Maduro can't pay them, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Adding to the intrigue, later in the day, President Donald Trump cryptically tweeted that he'd received word from Russia that "most of their people" had left the South American nation. The Kremlin's support has been crucial for Maduro – who has so far faced down a challenge from opposition leader Juan Guaido – and until now, Venezuela has spent a lot of money on Russian weapons. But if the cash is running dry and Moscow's support is fraying, will this alter Maduro's calculus? More importantly, will it alter the calculus of the generals whose continued support is keeping him in power?


Weather Report from the new "Arab Spring": Shots fired, elections cancelled
Earlier this spring, popular protests in both Sudan and Algeria ousted strongmen who had ruled for decades, creating hope for change in two countries burdened with notoriously repressive regimes. But in both cases, the military men who propped up those regimes have held on to power, angering street protesters who want systemic change rather than just a change of faces at the very top.

Over the weekend, that difference of aims turned deadly in the Sudanese capital, when soldiers opened fire on protesters who have camped outside the military's HQ for two months demanding a swift transition to civilian rule. Meanwhile, in Algeria, an interim government made up of old regime figures cancelled fresh elections scheduled for next month after hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to denounce them as a regime-controlled sham.

What we're ignoring

Reports about the purge or execution of North Korean officials – Last week, a South Korean paper quoting a single source reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was so annoyed at the failure of his Hanoi summit with Donald Trump that he'd executed several of his nuclear negotiators and sent his top diplomat, Kim Yong-chol, to a re-education camp. Plausible enough for a guy who's reportedly executed dozens of people, including his own family members. But then, over the weekend, North Korean media showed Mr Kim (the diplomat) seated contentedly alongside Dear Leader Kim at a concert. Either his stint in the camp provided him a remarkably quick reeducation or this is a reminder that it's almost impossible to know what is really happening inside a society as grotesquely repressive and secretive as North Korea's

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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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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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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