What We're Watching & What We 're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Joseph Kabila's Intentions – The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says he will leave office after elections on 23 December. Kabila has been in power since 2001, when he took over after his father's murder. He was supposed to step down in 2016 but has repeatedly postponed holding a presidential election.


The upcoming vote pits Kabila's former interior minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is currently under EU sanctions for human rights abuses, against opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi and businessman Martin Faulu Madidi. The sprawling resource-rich country has not had a peaceful transition of power since winning independence from Belgium in 1960. Mr. Kabila has left open the possibility of returning to power in 2023, which the constitution permits.

Shops that sell construction clothing in Cairo – As the seventh anniversary of the Tahrir Square revolution approaches, the Egyptian government has quietly cracked down on the sale of reflective yellow vests. Why? The authorities are worried about the potential for copycat protests inspired by the "gilets jaunes" movement in France. It's been decades since people thought of Cairo's belle epoque downtown district as "Paris Along the Nile" – and after the recent surge of violent protests in the French capital, Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sissi would just as soon keep it that way.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Russian bombers in Venezuela – On Monday, a pair of Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed at an airbase outside of Caracas. The US, which just last week made a rare reconnaissance flight over Ukraine in a direct dig at Russia, won't like the display of force on its proverbial doorstep in the Caribbean. This looks like a simple tit-for-tat by Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at shoring up a struggling ally. Maduro walked away from a trip to Moscow last week claiming to have secured $6 billion of financial assistance for Venezuela's struggling economy and 600,000 tons of food aid. Whether those promises materialize is a much more important issue for Venezuela than a temporary flyby.

British MPs behaving badly – A Labour MP was kicked out of the UK's House of Commons on Monday after he grabbed the ceremonial mace symbolizing the royal authority required for Parliament to meet and pass laws during a heated debate over Brexit. We're ignoring this for two reasons: first, it's been done before. Second, because the MP in question handed it back without a real fight. If you're going to make a spectacle of yourself by stealing a 400-year-old ceremonial club, you should at least give it a symbolic swing or two to make things interesting.

Walmart aspires to become a regenerative company – helping to renew people and planet through our business. We are committed to working towards zero emissions across our global operations by 2040. So far, more than 36% of our global electricity is powered through renewable sources. And through Project Gigaton, we have partnered with suppliers to avoid over 416 million metric tons of CO2e since 2017. Read more about our commitment to the planet in our 2021 ESG report.

Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

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7,100: As a third COVID wave ravages Myanmar, the death toll has now risen above 7,100, a gross undercount because that total includes only those who died in hospitals. Myanmar, which has one of the weakest healthcare systems in Asia, is also dealing with a vaccine hesitancy problem: people are rejecting shots because they see vaccination as validation of the military, which overthrew the democratically elected government earlier this year.

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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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This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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"We've been dealing with pandemics from the earliest recorded history. Thucydides writes about a pandemic in the history of the Peloponnesian War. So the last thing 2020 was, was unprecedented," Stanford historian Niall Ferguson told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. Ferguson, whose new book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," believes that the world should have been better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic based on the numerous health crises of the 20th century, from the 1918 Spanish flu to influenza and HIV/AIDS. He provides perspective on how the COVID crisis stacks up compared to other pandemics throughout history.

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

COVID-19 was a global catastrophe that blindsided the world's wealthiest nations, and it's far from over. But as disasters go, it was hardly unprecedented. Humanity has a long history of failing to prepare for the worst, from volcanic eruptions to earthquakes to famines to shipwrecks to airplane crashes to financial depressions. But how do we get better at preventing such calamities from happening, and how many seemingly unavoidable "natural" disasters are actually caused by humans? On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer talks about all that and more with Stanford historian Niall Ferguson, who is just out with the perfect book for the topic, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe." Plus, a look at how one young Ugandan activist was literally cropped out of the global climate fight.

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal