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What We're Watching & What We' re Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

DR Congo – As we wrote last Friday, tensions are rising in advance of the results of an election marred by suspicions of rampant cheating in favor of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, outgoing President Joseph Kabila's handpicked successor.


The anxiety spiked again on Sunday when election officials announced that nearly half of votes remain uncounted and that the country must wait another week for preliminary results. The opposition worries that the government is simply delaying in preparation for the resulting fury—and probably violence—when Shadary is ultimately announced as the hotly disputed winner.

Withdrawal from withdrawal in Syria? Over the weekend, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that US troops supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria would not in fact be withdrawn until Washington has secured a promise from Turkey not to attack the Kurds afterwards. But Ankara sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as one and the same with the domestic Kurdish rebels whom Turkey, along with the rest of NATO, consider to be terrorists. Turkish President Recep Erdogan will want to preserve flexibility to prevent the establishment of a formal Kurdish enclave just across its frontier with Northern Syria.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

The difference between concrete and steel – The US government remains partially shut down as President Trump digs in on his demand that Congress fund a $5 billion wall at the southern border, while Democrats who now control the House of Representatives say no way. Over the weekend, Trump offered Democrats a compromise: it can be made of steel, he said, rather than concrete. Given that just weeks ago he proposed a barrier of "artistically designed steel slats," we don't think this is "material" progress. Let's see what he says during his prime time address this evening.

The Indies Short-Tailed Cricket – Back in 2016, diplomats stationed at the US embassy in Havana began hearing strange chips, hums, and other noises while suffering from vertigo, dizziness, painful ringing in the ears, and even in some cases suspected brain damage. Speculation abounded that the Cubans, or maybe the Russians, were behind the mystery noise – sonic weapons, was the theory. No concrete evidence was ever found. But scientists who this week analyzed a recording of the offending frequencies think the noise on the tape could be a diminutive Caribbean cricket known for its shrill trill. This mystery is far from solved, and we would be very surprised if the dozens of documented injuries were all down to this one insect. For now we are ignoring the critter, with all due respect to Anurogryllus celerinictus. (Say it aloud. Try.)

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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A body blow for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Imran Khan suffered an embarrassing defeat this week when members of the National Assembly, the country's lower house, voted to give the opposition bloc a majority in the Senate. (In Pakistan, lower house legislators and provincial assemblies elect senators in a secret ballot.) The big drama of it all is that Khan's own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a lower house majority, which means that lawmakers supposedly loyal to his party voted in secret for opposition candidates. Khan's allies claim that PTI members were bribed to support the opposition, and the prime minister says he will ask for a lower house vote of confidence in his leadership. That vote will not be secret, but even if he survives, the political damage is done. Without a Senate majority, he has no chance of passing key reform plans, including constitutional amendments meant to centralize financial and administrative control in the federal government. Khan has, however, refused to resign.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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