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Hard Numbers: Charlie Hebdo's defiance, Belarus leader banned, India's GDP plunges, Venezuela pardons

A person holds a placard with a pencil which reads "I am Charlie" during a minute of silence in Strasbourg for victims of the shooting at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo.

12: Charlie Hebdo republished the same 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that made the French satirical magazine a target of a deadly terror attack in early 2015. The republication came on the eve of the long-awaited trial of those accused of helping two Islamic extremists kill 12 people inside the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, inspiring other acts of jihadist violence across France.

30: The three Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) have slapped a travel ban on 30 Belarus officials, including embattled President Alexander Lukashenko, for rigging the recent presidential election and cracking down on protesters. Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya is currently in exile in Lithuania.

110: The Venezuelan government has approved pardons for 110 jailed political opponents of President Nicolás Maduro ahead of legislative elections scheduled for December (though most of the opposition plans to boycott anyway). The list does not include high-profile dissidents such as Leopoldo López or Julio Borges.

23.9: India's economy contracted by 23.9 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020, its sharpest drop since the country started publishing GDP statistics in 1996. Coronavirus lockdowns have battered India's economy, leading to the virtual collapse of sectors like construction, manufacturing, and transport, and wiping out millions of jobs in the informal economy.

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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