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Not everyone celebrates the US holiday of Thanksgiving, but we've all got something to be grateful for in this awful year, right? So as Americans gather around the table — or the Zoom — to give thanks on Thursday, here's what a few world leaders are grateful for at the moment.
<p><strong>Donald Trump, US President</strong><br/></p><p>Very strongly grateful that although my legal appeals are MELTING faster than my attorney's <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/style/rudy-giuliani-hair.html" target="_blank">hair dye</a>, tens of millions of people still believe my claims of election fraud. That will be very useful to me in my next reality TV project — stay tuned! BIG RATINGS!</p><p><strong>Vladimir Putin, President of Russia</strong></p><p>I'm grateful that although Trump lost, he has done more to delegitimize American democracy and institutions in the past four years — four weeks even! — than I could manage in a lifetime. Separately, I think Turkey is highly overrated. </p><p><strong>Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany</strong></p><p>Unfortunately there is not (yet) a German word for "the feeling when you are thankful that although you are retiring next year after 15 years of running Germany you are at least reasonably happy that the transatlantic relationship, troubled as it is, might be on an upswing now that Biden won."</p><p><strong>The Coronavirus, Pandemic-in-Chief</strong></p><p>Not psyched about all this vaccine news, but "it is what it is," as they say. At the very least I'm thankful that it could still take years to distribute globally. Now, let's sit down to dinner shall we? Come a little closer, can't <em>quite </em>hear what you are saying ...</p><p><strong>Xi Jinping, President of China</strong></p><p>Thankful to have shared 2020 with my dear friend Donald. If it weren't for him, our COVID coverup, Hong Kong crackdown, Xinjiang repression, and all those faulty PPE products we shipped to Europe would have made <em>me</em> the world's most hated person.</p><p><strong>Kamala Harris, VP-elect of the US</strong></p><p>Thankful for the chance to put on these Converse All-Stars and <a href="https://www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/latest/a34480931/kamala-harris-on-why-she-loves-her-chuck-taylor-sneakers/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">walk all over</a> the haters for the next four years. </p><p><strong>Abiy Ahmed, PM of Ethiopia</strong></p><p>Thankful that the Nobel Committee gave me that peace prize two years before I <a href="https://apnews.com/article/diplomacy-abiy-ahmed-ethiopia-united-nations-kenya-ff8b216af0ba28d022c1cddbd1a7b7da" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">threatened</a> earlier this week to kill civilians in my <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/ethiopia-at-war-with-itself" target="_self">deepening conflict</a> with Tigray rebels. </p><p><strong>Boris Johnson, PM of the UK</strong> </p><p>Well it's been a bloody awful year. Brexit, then Covid. Then more COVID — and now COVID and Brexit at the same time. And 2021 doesn't look much better with that <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/brexit-and-biden" target="_self">sleepy Irish bloke</a> in the White House. At the very least I'm grateful that Americans are <a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2020/11/netflix-the-crown-prince-harry" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">obsessed</a> with The Crown. </p><p><strong>Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil</strong></p><p>I'm grateful that no matter how outrageously I behave, 30 percent of Brazilians will <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/did-bolsonaro-go-from-bust-to-boom" target="_self">always have my back</a>. Is that enough to win again in 2022? We'll see.</p><p><strong>Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey</strong></p><p>Ha ha, very funny. President of "Turkey" has to comment, eh? No! By the way, Vladimir, I saw that comment above — you<em> better </em>have been talking about the bird, which is legitimately bland and overrated, like Russia. </p><p><strong>Narendra Modi, PM of India</strong></p><p>Thankful that we will probably start getting those H1B visas back again. But if Biden <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/us-election-seen-from-india-trump-was-willing-to-break-china" target="_self">goes wobbly on China</a> we will NOT be happy. By the way, agree with Recep on the turkey — why don't you, like, put some decent spices on that?</p><p><strong>Benjamin Netanyahu, PM of Israel</strong></p><p>Just a word of gratitude for the <em>carte blanche</em> that Trump gave me these past four years — on settlements, on Palestine, on the Golan Heights, on Jerusalem — because let me tell you, without him in the White House, things are about to get a <em>lot </em><a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/us-election/" target="_self">harder for me</a>. </p><p><strong>Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran</strong></p><p>Great Satan is Great Satan, no matter how you slice that turkey, but we are pretty thankful that Joe Biden won. At least there is a chance to <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/us-election-seen-from-iran-a-rare-window-of-opportunity" target="_self">revive the Iran deal </a>and get rid of some of these sanctions. Still, Death to America! Death!</p><p><strong>Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus</strong></p><p>Thankful to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for showing me the way: despite months of protests, sanctions, and general global hate over my blatant theft of the election in August, my security services are sticking with me and I'm not going anywhere.</p>
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November 25, 2020
Hong Kong pro-democracy activists plead guilty: The name Joshua Wong has become synonymous with Hong Kong's once-dynamic pro-democracy movement. But the democrats' momentum has all but fizzled since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law this summer, outlawing secessionist activity and criminalizing foreign influence in Hong Kong. Now Wong, who was instrumental in the 2014 pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement," is pleading guilty in a Hong Kong court to organizing and taking part in pro-democracy protests that gripped the semi-autonomous city for much of 2019. He and his two co defendants — all of them in their 20's — have been remanded until sentencing, scheduled for December 2, and are likely to face prison terms of various lengths. Wong, for his part, said he decided to switch his plea to "guilty" after consulting with his lawyer. (Knowing that the trial would mostly be a sham, the trio decided to plead guilty in order to speed up the process, according to reports.) This internationally watched court case comes as Beijing has increasingly cracked down on Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp in recent months, prompting the US to impose sanctions on Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam, and several Western governments to terminate special economic relationship with the city. To date, there have been more than 2,000 prosecutions linked to last year's protests.
<p><strong>EU-Turkey tensions on the high seas:</strong> Turkish officials were furious after German forces belonging to an EU military mission <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-turkey-germany/germany-angers-turkey-with-attempt-to-police-libya-arms-embargo-idUSKBN28315K?utm_source=dailybrief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyBrief2020Nov24&utm_term=DailyNewsBrief" target="_blank">boarded a Turkish vessel</a> off the Greek Peloponnese peninsula on Monday without Ankara's consent. Germany said that it believed Turkey was transporting weapons to war-torn Libya in contravention of a <a href="https://www.sipri.org/databases/embargoes/un_arms_embargoes/libya/libya_2011" target="_blank">UN arms embargo</a>, and that after a request to conduct a search was ignored by the Turks, they made the call to jump aboard. Turkey, for its part, says it was simply carrying international aid to an undisclosed location, accusing Berlin of breaching international law by not waiting for permission to board the ship. Ankara has since summoned several European ambassadors to air its grievances. This maritime dispute comes amid <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/turkey-without-friends" target="_self">deteriorating relations</a> between Turkey and Europe, in part because of Turkey's continued drilling for oil in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus in the <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/tense-calm-in-the-eastern-mediterranean" target="_self">eastern Mediterranean</a>. The EU says it could impose sanctions on Ankara as soon as next month, which would surely up the ante in this intensifying stalemate.<br/></p><h3>What We're Ignoring</h3><p><strong>Clooney vs Orban:</strong> In an interview promoting his upcoming post-apocalyptic science-fiction film, <em>The Midnight Sky, </em>perennial heartthrob George Clooney<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/hungary-politics-clooney-orban/hungarys-government-spars-with-george-clooney-after-actors-criticism-of-orban-idUSKBN2841VO" target="_blank"> cited</a> the illiberal regimes of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as examples of "anger and hate" that could one day give rise to the dystopia depicted in the movie. But Orban's camp was not happy about the callout, hitting back by calling Clooney "foolish," and claiming that the liberal American philanthropist George Soros was in fact behind the slander — Soros and other conspirators were "whispering in his [Clooney's] ears," a government spokesperson said. We're ignoring this for two reasons: First, Soros, a Jewish philanthropist, Holocaust survivor, and backer of progressive causes has long been a <a href="https://www.adl.org/blog/the-antisemitism-lurking-behind-george-soros-conspiracy-theories" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">target </a> of the anti-Semitic tropes touted by Orban and his government. And second, if it comes down to Orban vs Clooney, we choose Clooney every time — obviously. </p>
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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:
Why hasn't Putin congratulated Biden yet?
There's no really good reason at this point. Pretty much every leader around the world has given the nod. As you know, Trump has not in any way conceded at this point. He may never. I suppose, at some point Putin may decide that he doesn't need to formally congratulate Biden. I mean, it's not like we're friends, right? The United States and Russia has a directly confrontational relationship, unlike the US and China, where there is a lot of interdependence, particularly economically between the two countries. That's not true with the US and Russia. You have virtually no trust and very little engagement. I will say that the Biden administration will be interested in re-entering the Open Skies agreement that we just left with the Russians, even though we're now decommissioning the spy plane, so it may be hard for the Americans and selling them for scrap, so it may be difficult to get back in and the intermediate nuclear forces agreement and new start.
<p>There are things that Biden and Putin will need to work on and if Putin doesn't at any point officially say, good job, it makes it harder to start off on a decent footing, but I don't think, these are all adults. I don't think it ultimately matters that much. I'm not losing sleep over it. I doubt that Biden is losing sleep over. Probably Blinken, Avril Haines, some of the incoming folks are starting to lose some sleep over it and reaching out already to Russian diplomats saying, what gives people, but ultimately this is Putin's call. Even though he hasn't gotten much at all from the Trump administration, Trump himself as an individual has generally been well disposed to Putin. Has never criticized the leader directly and at the end of the day, Putin personally calls the shots in Russia, as opposed to the government as a whole and so this is Putin's decision. There you have it.</p><p><strong> How is the world responding to reports of a massacre in Ethiopia's Tigray region?</strong></p><p> Very concerned. This is a big humanitarian disaster. It's the worst you've had in decades in Ethiopia. We've got about 5,000 refugees per day streaming out of the Tigray region. The Ethiopian government giving 72 hour notice to residents to get out or all hell breaks loose. They said they're going to start shelling these folks. That would be a war crime. You're talking about a civilian population, though the initial military strikes kicking this all off did come from the Tigray region itself. It's not about economics, it's about power. It's 5% of the Ethiopian population that used to functionally run the government, call the shots, had the Petros networks, doesn't anymore and they're not happy about it.</p><p>Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy is trying to make the country more democratic and not run by a single ethnic group. The group that has the most to lose perhaps unexpectedly, is really upset about that. I'll tell you, when I was in Ethiopia right before the pandemic started, it was still this year, there were so many well thought of western oriented people around the prime minister who really had second thoughts about holding a democratic election, simply because they feared that moving the country away from ethno-federalism and run by a small minority, it was potentially very dangerous indeed, anyway that's where you are. They held off on holding the election because of the pandemic. The Tigray region held it themselves illegally and declared that they were going to take over, basically have self rule and unless you're prepared to let them split off and again, in many of these cases, that is a very challenging thing to do peacefully, then there needs to be a resolution and that resolution right now is a military one and potentially one that's going to kill an awful lot of civilians.</p><p>The United Nations has responded with grave concern, getting humanitarian aid in there through the UNHCR. The United States has made a statement. Europeans have made statements, but no one's doing anything about it and nor would you expect it so. Really the question is someone going to blink and then could you avoid this level of a violent conflict? We'll see where that goes.</p><p><strong>Bibi and MBS: did they or didn't they meet? </strong></p><p>Well, the Saudis say they didn't meet, but it's pretty clear that if Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, is going on a private plane to Neom where MBS also was and where Secretary of State Pompeo also was, that they met. The Saudis do not always tell the truth about a diplomatic related stuff, as we know historically and it's hard for them unless ready to actually normalize relations. On this issue a much more conservative Saudi population and the King who is still compos mentis and is not as willing to engage directly with the Israelis until there is movement on a peace plan between Israel and Palestine and there is not. The Palestinians are now engaging again, diplomatically with Israel now that Biden is coming in, but there is no movement on a peace plan.</p><p>You remember John Kerry, that was his big deal, was trying to make that happen. Now, of course, he's a global envoy for climate, which frankly is not as heavy a lift as getting the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on land. Talk about that. It's clear they met and it's clear it's a big deal and we are moving towards normalization. We've already seen that with the Emirates, with Sudan and with Bahrain and Bahrain is... Functionally, they don't have their own foreign policy. They take their messages from the Saudis. They were the ones that hosted that initial economic peace plan that was pushed by the Trump White House. That was in Bahrain. Again, Saudi Arabia facilitated that. It was very much a one-sided deal. The Palestinians weren't really a part of it. </p><p>Obviously Mohammed bin Salman has been interested in this normalization process for some time. If the King weren't around, if he were dead, and MBS became the King, I suspect we'd already have an announcement. It does feel like we're moving closer. It really does and it wouldn't shock me if this becomes a final win for the Trump administration before Biden's inauguration. The fact is that the Middle East is in a very different position now than it was before. I tell you, if I were advising Biden on this, I wouldn't be unhappy about it, especially because if you're Biden, you're trying to get the Iranians back into the nuclear deal. It's easier to do when the Saudis, the Emirates, the Israelis are all engaged, normalizing relations and squeezing, pressuring Iran on a common front. It's a lighter lift for the Americans and Iran is an antagonist of the US and America's allies in the region and it's very hard to come up with a deal with.</p><p>That's where we're going. That's where we are. Lots to talk about and so nice to be talking about international affairs again instead of all elections, all the time. I'll be with you all again, real soon. Have a great turkey day. Do your best, be safe, avoid people.</p>
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