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Colombia's humanitarian gesture for Venezuelan refugees merits US support

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Number one, why did Colombia's president grant legal status to 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants?

Well, because they have them, first of all. Because given the extraordinary economic collapse and the human rights abuses of Venezuelans under the Maduro presidency, not to mention the coronavirus crisis making their lives even worse, they've been fleeing, and most of them have ended up in Colombia. Not providing legal status means they can't work, means they have no path for a future. Some of them have even fled back to Venezuela or returned to Venezuela, and again just shows just how critically difficult their life has been. It's a humanitarian gesture of pretty staggering degree. It makes an enormous difference in the lives of these people. Think about how the United States under Biden now preparing to accept 125,000 refugees per year, up 10 times from what it was just a year ago, the world's most powerful country. The wealthy countries never get overwhelmed with refugees the way the poorest countries do. It's states in Sub-Saharan Africa and it's South and Southeast Asia and it's Latin America, and in the Western hemisphere, it's been Colombia.

Venezuela has been the biggest humanitarian crisis and catastrophe and the Colombian government has had to deal with millions of Venezuelan refugees and now they're taking responsibility. And the United States should be fully supportive and should provide humanitarian aid to help the Colombian government deal with this very significant lift, and also to try to reduce the level of anti-Venezuelan sentiment. Because, of course, when you have that many refugees, they're not doing very well. There's going to be domestic criticism, that it's an eyesore, that they're criminals, that they're bringing, they're spreading disease. And the more capable the Colombian government is to actually economically integrate these people and to get them into positions where they can take care of themselves. They can provide for themselves, their family, the better it'll for everybody. So quite some good news in an environment that desperately needs it.

Okay, number two. What are the political ramifications of Netanyahu's corruption trial?

Here, we're talking about a sitting prime minister in Israel who has been indicted for corruption charges and is now facing a trial. And just yesterday, he sat in the docks and left after about half hour and he says, "It's a witch hunt." He says, "The judicial system is rigged." It's actually very analogous to the way that former President Donald Trump has treated his own two now impeachment cases in the United States. Some would say that the Israeli legal system works well because even a sitting prime minister can be forced to stand trial. Lots of other people think that the level of Netanyahu refusing to take seriously the claims and the cases undermining it in public and social media, the fact that most of Netanyahu's supporters agree that it's rigged, just as kind of most of Trump's supporters believe that the last election was stolen, it's actually undermining rule of law in the one government across the Middle East that has been the strongest consolidated democracy in terms of legitimacy of political institutions and unrest. And yes, I know we're not talking about the Palestinians in the occupied territory, but we are talking about everybody, including Palestinians and Arabs and the rest that are living inside Israel proper under Israeli law. And what's happening right now in Israel, I think is creating more polarization and is starting to delegitimize the institutions in that country. Netanyahu's trying to get another delay in the case and the calling witnesses until after elections at the end of March. Of course, elections are happening now in Israel every few months. So, extend and pretend, that's what Netanyahu's strategy is and he has proven to be quite a survivor on the Israeli political stage.

Finally, what is going on with Elon Musk and Bitcoin?

Well, damned if I know, because Elon Musk, in addition to being the most wealthy person in the world, also has a fairly insane social media feed and frequently writes about and tweets about anything imaginable on his mind, which given how many followers he has and given how much money he has puts him in a position of pretty extraordinary power. Now, look, I personally think that when the world's wealthiest man decided to tweet out in favor of GameStop with his tens of millions of followers, a stock that had virtually no underlying value, and therefore individually did more to pump up that stock and as a consequence put enormous numbers of rank-and-file retail investors at risk because they believe Elon. I think that's irresponsible. It's not illegal. There's nothing illegal about it, but it's incredibly irresponsible. I tell you, it bothers me that the wealthiest man in the world, and therefore one of the most powerful men in the world, has so limited regard for civil society, has so limited regard for the wellbeing of his fellow citizens, both in the United States and globally. And we can say he's doing fantastic things as an entrepreneur. And by the way, I do think that Elon Musk as an entrepreneur, as a technologist has been staggeringly successful, and I am thankful for that. In terms of not just electric vehicles, but also his willingness to invest in space and his willingness to set up prizes to get better development and advanced technologies and the Hyperloop and all of these things. Some of which will work, many of which will not, but we need people taking risks like that.

But that is very different than his public presence on issues of policy, on issues that affect the average human being, where I think he has been one of the most irresponsible forces in the country and that deeply bothers me and it's why the fact that he's putting an enormous amount of money into Bitcoin, his company has, Tesla, where he's a 20% owner and he is also putting Bitcoin symbol in his bio on social media. Oh, see this is what's going on, Dogecoin, everyone should invest in Dogecoin going to the moon. It doesn't mean anything. It's completely speculative. It moves a lot of money. And maybe it's just a game to him and maybe it's just a game to Dave Portnoy over at Barstool Sports. But these people are hurting people and they're hurting people just as much as the folks that are promoting fake news on the left and on the right in the mainstream media and the trolls on social media. And I think that with that kind of money and that kind of influence, you should take some responsibility. There's a reason why I personally don't buy stocks and currencies, and frankly it's because as someone who is a public figure with nowhere close to the level of reach and influence that someone like Elon has, I don't want the conflicts of interest. I want people to view my perspective as having authenticity and I think that there's some responsibility behind that and you can't be, if you're talking your book or if people think that you're talking your book, it undermines it.

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.

Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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In the fall of 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would change the world, Ian Bremmer asked Dr. Fauci what kept him up at night and he described a "a pandemic-like respiratory infection." Fast-forward to late February 2021 and Dr. Fauci tells Ian, "I think we are living through much of that worst nightmare." Dr. Fauci returns to GZERO World to take stock of the nightmare year and to paint a picture of what the end of the pandemic could look like—and when it could finally arrive.

Catch the full episode of GZERO World, where Dr. Fauci discusses the latest in vaccine roll out, schools re-openings, and plenty more, on US public television stations nationwide, beginning Friday, February 26. Check local listings.

Egypt and Sudan want some dam help: Cairo and Khartoum have called on the US, EU, and UN to intervene in their ongoing dispute with neighboring Ethiopia over that country's construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile. Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream of Ethiopia and worry about their farmers losing water, want binding targets and dispute resolution mechanisms, while Ethiopia, which sees the dam as a critical piece of its economic future, wants more flexibility and has given little ground in talks. Efforts by the African Union to mediate have failed as Ethiopia presses ahead with filling the dam even after being sanctioned by the Trump administration last year for doing so. The dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as it is called, has threatened to spill into military conflict at several points in recent years. Can the "international community" turn things around?

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