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Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

Mexico — If Mexico elects Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) president on July 1, it will mark a sharp break from center-right dominance of the country’s politics of the past 30 years. Unless there’s a deal before July, an AMLO win would complicate the effort to renegotiate NAFTA. It would speed the deterioration of US-Mexican relations, already accelerated by President Donald Trump. AMLO is clearly the frontrunner, and his main challengers, Jose Antonio Meade from the ruling PRI and Ricardo Anaya, representing a centrist alliance, are attacking each other rather than forming a unified front to take on Lopez Obrador. The formal campaign begins on March 31.


Egypt’s ridiculous election — How ridiculous is next month’s presidential election in Egypt? The incumbent, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, faces one challenger — a man who has campaigned for Sisi in the past. Other candidates — a former prime minister, a military colonel, a human rights lawyer, and former president Anwar Sadat’s nephew — have all been harassed off the ballot. Fourteen international and Egyptian rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have issued a statement that accuses Sisi of having “trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections” and calling on the US and EU to “speak out publicly now to denounce these farcical elections, rather than continue with largely unquestioning support for a government presiding over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades.”

Atomic lizards — An advisor to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced during a press conference on Tuesday that Western nations were using lizards to spy on Iran’s nuclear program. Because lizards “attract atomic waves.” Is this possible? I really don’t know. I suppose that if the Israelis can use vulturesdolphinsstorks and squirrels, then anything is possible.

What We're Ignoring

Barack Obama’s official portrait — Your Friday author is no art critic, and Kehinde Wiley is a highly respected artist. Still, on behalf of Philistines everywhere, I have to ask: Why is Obama sitting in the bushes?

The Riyadh Ritz Carlton — This five-star hotel has reopened its doors to paying customers after pulling double-duty as a high-class prison. We’re sure it’s a nice hotel, but it was much more interesting when it had 200 princes, government ministers and businessmen camped out in it. #YouCanCheckOutAnyTimeYouLike

The Robot Winter Olympics — Apparently, there is a “Robot Winter Olympics.” We don’t care. We only watch the Games for the human-interest stories. Except for Kevin. Kevin watches the robots so they don’t watch us.

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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