Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

The Lula ruling — An appeals court in Brazil announced this week that it will rule on January 24 on whether corruption charges against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will stand. If so, he can’t run in next October’s presidential election. Even if his chances of winning the election may be overrated, his name on the ballot would have a big impact on the race.


BBC Elsewhere — Without this invaluable website, your Friday author wouldn’t know that The Republic of The Gambia now claims that a written agreement that grants land to be used for a restoration of the Russian monarchy is a “false and faked document.” We would never have heard of“Arch Chancellor Prince Anton Bakov,” a man who claims to be Prime Minister of the Romanov Empire. Nor would I know that tourists who dress as Mario-kart video game characters while driving go-karts around Tokyo are now required to wear seat belts.

Saudi cinema — We’re pleased to see that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s cultural opening will allow Saudis to return to movie theaters for the first time since the late 1970s. We’ll be watching to see how long it takes Saudi moviegoers to figure out just how many Star Wars episodes they’ve missed.

What We're Ignoring

“For Mexico In Front” — The conservative National Action Party (PAN) joined forces this week with the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens Movement party. At this point, the new coalition, known as “For Mexico in Front,” looks set for third place in next July’s presidential election behind the PRI and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party.

The 2018 Putin Calendar — Thanks for the sexy calendar Vladimir Vladimirovich, and Merry Christmas to you too. Thanks especially for keeping your shirt on this year. But you have to stop sending us these things. We get it. You’re dreamy. You don’t have to prove this every December.

Shen Yun — If you live in a big US city, you’ve probably seen the posters of leaping Chinese women, the colorful flowing robes, and the promise of “art that connects Heaven and Earth.” But for the 13th year in a row, we’re skipping Shen Yun. It’s not because the Chinese government says these self-proclaimed “elite Chinese artists” are the Falun Gong’s dance troupe and a carefully choreographed bid to subvert Chinese Communist Party rule through subversive kitsch. Nope, we’re not going for the same reason we never went to River Dance. Happy-looking dancers are boring. Dancers should look sad until the curtain call. That’s a rule. Fred Astaire is the only exception. And the Nicholas Brothers.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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