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What We Are Watching

Saudi Arabia putting women's rights activists on trial – Just in time for International Women's Day, Saudi Arabia has announced that a dozen women rights activists will now face trial for seeking to "undermine the security" of the Kingdom. Members of the group were arrested last spring amid a crackdown that coincided with the move to lift restrictions on women driving. The apparent contradiction here reflects Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's authoritarian approach to modernizing a deeply conservative country: he has taken steps to liberalize certain aspects of society while also unleashing a ruthless crackdown on civil society that includes the jailing of activists and the government's murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

People on Twitter using AI to snoop on Chinese officials – Fair warning: we're not sure if this person who claims to have used facial recognition technology to spot officials who would otherwise be lost in the crowd at the opening of China's National People's Congress picking their noses and stifling yawns is for real. But just the idea that someone is using AI to literally watch the government of a country that's controversially using the same technology to augment its security state and crack down on millions of members of its ethnic Uighur Muslim minority is too good to pass up. The Communist Party isn't pleased.

What We Are Ignoring

A wild Washington love triangle – A carousing pair of bald eagles has been causing a stir in the US capital. Longtime partners Liberty and Justice were Washington's most famous nesting pair before Justice flew the coop last month, possibly to sow his oats after a mid-life crisis. After a few days fighting off a pair of rival suitors, including a dashing interloper named Aaron Burrd, Liberty shacked up with one of them and fled the nest herself. Later, as the local press put it, Justice returned, but found that Liberty had moved on. We're ignoring this story despite the poignant political metaphor, because the feathery soul-mates were recently spotted together again, and they deserve some privacy while they try to work things out.

Indian mustache groupies – Apparently we weren't the only ones who noticed Indian fighter pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's striking mustache. The fighter jock, who was released by Pakistan on Friday after being shot down over Kashmir last week, became an overnight hero and viral sensation, with young men from across India flocking to barbershops for the "Wing Commander Abhinandan" look. We're ignoring these pretenders, because there is only one Wing Commander Abhinandan.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Even as vaccines roll out around the world, COVID-19 is continuing to spread like wildfire in many places, dashing hopes of a return to normal life any time soon. Some countries, like Israel and the UK for instance, have been praised for their inoculation drives, while still recording a high number of new cases. It's clear that while inoculations are cause for hope, the pace of rollouts cannot keep up with the fast-moving virus. Here's a look at the countries that have vaccinated the largest percentages of their populations so far – and a snapshot of their daily COVID caseloads (7-day rolling average) in recent weeks.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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