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What we're watching

Curiosity about Kamala – So many Democrats have announced plans to run against Donald Trump in 2020 that their party will hold debates in pairs on back-to-back nights to ensure everyone gets time to talk. There's no obvious frontrunner yet, but new data on recent Google searches reveals intense interest in California Senator Kamala Harris.

"Unsustainable Architecture" – The 6,000 workers who occupy the building that houses the Netherlands' foreign ministry and other government offices have been warned not to dance in the staff restaurant, install heavy cabinets in offices, or even stack too much photocopy paper in any one place for fear that suspect construction materials might lead the building's floors to collapse. Ironically, this building won an award for "sustainability" not long after it opened in 2017. We're watching with great interest to see how workers react, because your Signal team would never give up the notoriously raucous lunch-hour polka break that we enjoy here at GZERO Media headquarters.

What we're ignoring

Admonishing Erdogan – New Zealand's government is not happy that Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces important local elections on March 31, has tried to win votes for his party by showing the Christchurch mosque terrorist's own live-streamed video of the attack. We'll ignore any possibility this story will doing anything other than make angry people angrier, because Erdogan's response so far has been to criticize the governments of Australia and New Zealand for sending troops to fight Ottoman Turks during World War I.

Russian California – A Russian official reportedly told a state-run news agency this week that he thinks his government should ask the United States to "return" California to Russia, presumably because groups of Russians settled near Sonoma County during the early 19th century. The move would certainly provide a nice boost for Russia's economy—California's GDP ($2.7 trillion) is nearly twice as large as Russia's ($1.5 trillion). We doubt, however, that this idea will catch on with Californians.

Signal Salute

Ichiro — Signal hails one of the world's great athletes and a beloved icon on both sides of the Pacific. After many successful years with the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki completed his remarkable baseball career yesterday, fittingly, to the cheers of both Japanese and American fans in the Tokyo Dome. #FirstBallotHallOfFame


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.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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