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Google Vs. The "Free World"

Google Vs. The "Free World"

Google boss Sundar Pichai trekked to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to answer questions from lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee. It was the Indian-born CEO's first public appearance before Congress, after he declined an earlier invitation to testify on foreign election interference alongside executives from Facebook and Twitter before the Senate Intelligence Committee in September. You can catch Pichai's full three and a half hours in the hot seat here.

Lawmakers from both parties peppered Pichai with questions about privacy and Google's plans to reenter the search market in China. They sparred with one another over whether Republicans' allegations of an anti-conservative political bias in Google's search algorithms were worth dwelling on.

Perhaps the most significant moment of the hearing came before Pichai was even sworn in, when Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy laid bare the growing chasm between Silicon Valley and Washington: "We need to know that Google is on the side of the free world," he declared.

It was a sharp distillation of the twin political risks facing America's biggest tech companies heading into 2019.

  • A steady sting of data breaches, swirling privacy concerns, and allegations of biased search results have eroded public trust in companies that millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide rely on to access news and information.
  • At the same time, Silicon Valley has become a strategically important asset in the US pushback against China and other authoritarian countries' use of technology as a tool for political control. That's a particular problem for Google, whose designs on re-entering China – potentially with a search engine that complies with Chinese censors – led to some tough questions on Tuesday.

It leaves Silicon Valley as a whole more vulnerable to some form of regulatory crackdown next year while simultaneously making it harder for the sector's most important global companies to push back against Washington's growing calls to put "America First."

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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18: A week after threatening protesters with a severe crackdown, Myanmar's ruling junta killed at least 18 people across the country in the bloodiest day of clashes since the generals staged a coup last month.
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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

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