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UK’s new COVID strain problematic but economic pain is a greater risk

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Number one, what's the story with the new COVID strain in Britain?

Well, I mean, it's a mutation. Apparently, it is equally combatable by the vaccines that we've developed, and I've heard that directly by some of the people that are running those companies. So, it's not a concern about the ability that we have to stop the disease once we get vaccinations, thank God. But it is a problem in terms of how much more quickly the virus can be transmitted. Now, in the United Kingdom, they do an awful lot of testing, especially compared to many countries in Europe, and they have found an extensive amount of this new strain, which has led them to bring the UK into Tier 4, as they call it, which means basically Christmas is canceled. No one's going anywhere. Everything's locked down. That also has meant that a lot of countries have suspended travel to the United Kingdom, which I understand, but we've already seen some of this new strain in Italy, for example. I suspect it's going to pop up in a bunch of other countries in the continent. If it's everywhere, do you really want the additional pain economically?

Look, one thing I would say is that over the course of the next couple of months, as we see much more vaccinations, and we're going to, we've got 500,000 people vaccinated already in the United States which is a fantastic number, frankly, so quickly. These are the people that are most vulnerable. Mortality rates are going to go down significantly. As it does, there needs to be much more focus on the economic side of the equation. $600 in the pocket of the average American that is suffering on the back of all of these lockdowns is not adequate for them. And I think the new coronavirus task force under Biden should be doctors and epidemiologists, should also be economists and business leaders. You need a balance between both, and I am worried that especially as we do a better job, finally, in fighting the healthcare impact of this disease, we are not doing nearly an adequate job for the average American in fighting the economic consequences, and that is something we're going to live with for a very long time.

Okay, next question. Did Aleksei Navalny really prank his poisoner?

I don't know that I'd call it a prank in the sense that Navalny only could have died, but he did pretend to be the boss of this one Russian spy, got him on the phone, and was chewing him out with the fictitious name and say, "How was it that, Navalny, you didn't kill this guy?" And I'm sure at least psychologically it was good for Aleksei to feel like he was able to do that and get it out there. And apparently, they put this agent, this chemical agent inside the seams of Navalny's boxer shorts. I mean, I didn't need to know what kind of briefs Navalny wears personally, but now it's all out there. He wore them, it got into his body. He immediately fell very ill. Apparently when the Russians provided his body, they allowed it to fly to Germany, all the clothing was of course not there because that's evidence. And now he's trying to get that clothing. And I'm fairly certain that that clothing no longer is gettable. But does Putin care? Probably not. Navalny's considered a pest, but also, if Putin really wanted Navalny dead, Navalny would be dead by now. I think that's also pretty clear. Putin likes to show that he can play a cat and mouse game with these dissidents, that he is so much more powerful than them. I feel fairly confident that if there were more significant threats to Putin's power, the level of direct repressive measures against a lot of these people would be even greater. It's not as if Putin has any respect for human life in this context, a very depressing thing.

Did you see the Christmas Star?

I actually did. This is Jupiter and Saturn coming as close together as they've ever been since the 1600s, apparently 1623. Galileo's time. And you look out and it was right after sunset. And even in a city like New York with all the ambient light, you could actually see this very bright, two planets kind of look like stars, right? Because how the hell would we know, right where the sun had set for a couple of hours? And I mean, it was nice. It didn't excite me, but I thought it was kind of a cool thing. Interestingly, everyone talks about how it's the first time since 1623, but the astronomers are saying that back in 1623, they were too close to the position of the sun so no one could have seen it. It's like if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? Does it matter? And the answer is, well, yeah, maybe, but it's not as exciting as if the humans can put it in context, document it, has experience for us. And that's important because this does happen every few hundred years. In fact, it happened back in the early 1200s when people could see it. And then, that was the time of Genghis Khan. And that was the kind of world that we have today, more GZERO, more kind of like mass destruction, and we don't care about people. And it just feels more appropriate generally that the last time we've had this kind of a convergence of the two largest planets in the solar system... People saying Jupiter and Saturn, but they're the two largest planets. It's like the United States and China, but on a solar system kind of scale, right? I'm just going to stop right now because I clearly know nothing useful about astronomy, but you asked this question and so I'm giving you what I have.

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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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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