Sudan: Bashir out, generals in.What's next?

Thirty years in power ended after just three months of protests yesterday for Sudanese strongman Omar Bashir.

The army – faced with growing demonstrations and an image of defiance that suddenly went viral around the world – arrested Bashir and imposed a state of emergency. Defense Minister Awad Ibn Ouf has said elections will be held in two years.

Bashir's ouster comes just a week after the nearly incapacitated president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, resigned under pressure from his own generals, following several weeks of mass protests. In his case, it ended a 20-year run in power.

Autocrats lose, but will democracy win? Both men were ousted after street demonstrations reached a point that the military chose to side with the protesters rather than gun them down.


But the generals now control what happens next in both countries, and there is no guarantee that they'll be willing to relinquish control to genuinely accountable civilian governments.

If they don't, it could spell trouble. While economic issues are what initially put millions of young Algerians and Sudanese on the streets over the past few months, their demands have since expanded to include political change and transparency. Popular discontent could persist in both countries if those demands aren't fulfilled.

Then again, the generals may look to Egypt, where the army skillfully used popular demands for change to oust a long-standing dictator, as well as the democratically elected leader who came to power after him. Eight years after the Arab Spring, the country is now under the control of a deeply authoritarian regime.

The upshot: It's one thing for the men with guns to side with the streets against suddenly vulnerable leaders – but would they be willing to side with protesters against… themselves?

Amid the current need to continually focus on the COVID-19 crisis, it is understandably hard to address other important issues. But, on March 31st, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed landmark facial recognition legislation that the state legislature passed on March 12, less than three weeks, but seemingly an era, ago. Nonetheless, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the importance of this step. This legislation represents a significant breakthrough – the first time a state or nation has passed a new law devoted exclusively to putting guardrails in place for the use of facial recognition technology.

For more on Washington's privacy legislation, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Read our roundup of COVID-19 themes and stories from around the globe.

Europe skirts US sanctions to help Iran: While the US insists on tightening the sanctions noose around COVID-stricken Iran, European countries are now sending medical equipment. To do so, they are using for the first time a system called INSTEX, a back-channel financial mechanism created a year ago that allows Europe to maintain trade ties with Iran despite US sanctions. Recall that in 2018 the US pulled out of the multilateral Iran nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions – the Europeans stayed in the deal and have tried to salvage it. To date, Iran has suffered more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, one of the highest tolls in the world. Some say that Iran's failure to contain the contagion has been complicated further by US sanctions, which have thwarted the Islamic Republic's ability to fund medical imports. Tehran has urged the US to ease sanctions to no avail, but Ayatollah Khamenei has also, citing some wild conspiracy theories about the coronavirus' origin, refused medical aid from Washington.

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Laid-off hospitality workers tell their stories in their own words.

Ian Bremmer breaks down the massive economic toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on the hospitality and service industries in America and around the globe. In the U.S. alone, millions could face unemployment as businesses struggle to stay afloat.

Over the past decade or so, the European Union has weathered the global financial crisis, a migrant crisis, and the rise of populist nationalism. Sure, it's taken its fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, but the idea of a largely borderless Europe united by common democratic values has survived more or less intact.

Then came the coronavirus. The global pandemic, in which Europe is now one of the two main epicentres, is a still-spiralling nightmare that could make those previous crises look benign by comparison. Here are a few different ways that COVID-19 is severely testing the 27-member bloc:

The economic crisis: Lockdowns intended to stop the virus' spread have brought economic activity to a screeching halt, and national governments are going to need to spend a lot of money to offset the impact. But some EU members can borrow those funds more easily than others. Huge debt loads and deficits in southern European countries like Italy and Spain, which have been hardest hit by the outbreak so far, make it costlier for them to borrow than more fiscally conservative Germany and other northern member states. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, this imbalance nearly led the bloc's common currency, the Euro, to unravel.

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