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US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that US troops supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria would not in fact be withdrawn until Washington has secured a promise from Turkey not to attack the Kurds afterwards.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.)

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

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For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

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.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

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UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

Coronavirus

UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

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