What We're Watching: Yemen breakthrough, Turkey vs Russia, arresting Zuma?

What We're Watching: Yemen breakthrough, Turkey vs Russia, arresting Zuma?

Yemen's mercy flight – After 18 months of painstaking negotiations, a United Nations plane carrying sick Yemenis in need of urgent medical care took off from Sanaa, the country's rebel-held capital, headed for Jordan. The seven people onboard the UN's "mercy flight" require treatment for life-threatening conditions, while an additional 23 people are expected to take similar flights to seek medical care in Egypt and Jordan later this week. Sanaa airport has been closed to commercial flights since 2016, when heavy fighting began between the Saudi-backed coalition and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Violence has eased in recent months as the two sides pursue back-channel talks to resolve a five-year conflict that's pushed much of the population to the brink of starvation. But a fresh outburst of fighting in recent days reminds us how elusive a workable peace in Yemen remains.


Turkey's search for friends – President Erdogan of Turkey once claimed a foreign policy of "zero problems with neighbors." He now appears to have zero friends. Consider: Turkey's relations with its longstanding allies – the US and the European Union – have been strained in recent years. Europe and Turkey are at odds over refugee policies, human rights, and oil drilling in the Mediterranean. The US, meanwhile, has threatened sanctions over Ankara's purchase of Russian missiles. As Turkey's relations with its NATO allies have soured, Erdogan has tried to cultivate closer ties with regional heavyweight Vladimir Putin. But rifts between Turkey and Russia have recently been opening too. In Syria, Turkey has exchanged deadly strikes with the Russian-backed forces of Bashar al-Assad, earning a warning from Moscow. In Libya, Turkey has sent troops to support the UN-backed government, which is currently at war with a warlord backed by…Russia.

Arrest warrant for Jacob Zuma – For months, South Africa's disgraced former president Jacob Zuma has tried to avoid showing up at his own corruption trial. First his legal team filed a flurry of appeals. When those were struck down, the 77-year old Zuma cited his deteriorating health as a reason not to face graft charges related to a $2.5 billion arms deal in the late 1990s. The court has now had enough – on Tuesday it issued an arrest warrant that takes effect if Zuma isn't present when the trial resumes on May 6. Lawyers for Zuma, who resigned the presidency in 2018 with more than 700 corruption charges against him, have accused the court of lacking "compassion." Zuma is reported to be in Cuba at the moment for medical treatment. There is no word on when he is set to return to South Africa.

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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