What We're Watching: Zimbabwe's anti-government protests, China's "dark fleet," Trump calls for election delay

What We're Watching: Zimbabwe's anti-government protests, China's "dark fleet," Trump calls for election delay

President feels the heat in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's security forces are clearing the streets of the capital, Harare, ahead of a planned anti-government protest on Friday, as the country reels from the worst economic crisis in a decade. Activists have called on Zimbabweans to take to the streets to demand the government do more to address rampant corruption and hyperinflation — which is precisely what President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to do when he took over from longtime strongman Robert Mugabe after a 2017 coup. Since then, however, citizens have continued to see government officials accused of graft, while annual inflation has soared to over 737 percent. Salaries and pensions in local currency are now worth so little that nurses have gone on strike until they get paid in US dollars, causing a shortage that this week led to seven stillborn babies born in one night at a major hospital in Harare. To make matters worse, Mnangagwa's critics claim that the president and his allies are using coronavirus-related emergency powers to arrest countless dissidents among the over 100,000 people detained for violating lockdown rules since March.


Chinese "dark fleet" threatens Galápagos biodiversity: The Ecuadorian navy is closely monitoring a fleet of around 260 Chinese fishing vessels spotted near the Galápagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site and scuba diver's paradise known for its unique marine biodiversity and for being where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. In 2017, a Chinese fishing boat was intercepted in the same area with over 300 tonnes of protected species, including the Galapagos shark which is endemic to the islands. According to Quito, the Chinese fleet has been there for at least two weeks and is now getting very close to Ecuador's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the archipelago, and there is no word yet from Beijing. This is the latest example of the global reach of China's so-called "dark fleet" of fishing vessels operating far away from Chinese waters, which is often accused of depleting local fish stocks. Last week, a new report alleged that over 1,000 Chinese fishing vessels have been operating illegally for years in waters off North Korea, catching over $440 million in squid alone.

Can the US election be delayed? As new figures were released on Thursday revealing that the US economy contracted by 32.9 percent this past spring, the fastest dip on record, President Trump tweeted that the November election should be "delayed." The president, who has faced plummeting poll numbers in recent weeks, cited unsubstantiated claims about mail-in-ballots — ballots that are sent to people's homes and then either cast by mail or returned to polling stations in person— as necessitating a postponement. But the US election can only be delayed with GREAT difficulty. Consider the following: The date for Election Day is set by federal law, which requires Congressional approval to be changed. There is no chance that the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives would agree to this. (The courts would also then be forced to weigh in and things could get very messy.) Additionally, even if the election does not go forward as planned, the US Constitution explicitly states that a presidential term shall end on January 20. Figuring out who would step in to replace both President Trump and Vice President Pence would be complicated business (think Electoral College complicated). Bottom line: trying to delay the US election is an enormously complicated process over which the president has little control.

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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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?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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