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Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Pirates of the Caribbean —  Political and economic crises in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti appear to be contributing to a  surge of piracy in the Caribbean Sea, according to recent reports. In some cases, corrupt officials onshore, particularly in Venezuela, may be complicit.


A disaster-proof city  — Is it possible to build a city that can withstand earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and other natural disasters? Developers in the Philippines are planning a project they call New Clark City about 60 miles north of Manila. They say it will be larger than Manhattan, able to house 1.2 million people, and pollution-free. Buildings will be constructed with a mixture of concrete and material from volcanic mudflows. “Good trick if you can do it,” as your Friday author’s grandfather used to say.

WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO

Aretha – We live in a world of special effects, where a machine can make anything look and sound real. We rarely see genuine take-your-breath-away miracles anymore. But that shocking, original, and beautiful voice was real, and it will live on. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Pastafarians — The Dutch government has ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion, denying a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the right to wear a colander on her head for passport and driver's license photos. She can still apply for asylum in New Zealand, which recognizes the church. Pastafarianism was founded in 2005 by an American man to protest the teaching of biblical creationism in science classes in US public schools.

AirBnB’s Great Wall sleepover contest — Airbnb recently announced an exciting new essay competition: Write 500 words on “overcoming cultural boundaries” and you can win the chance the  sleep on a watchtower on the Great Wall of China. The prize includes a short hike, a gourmet meal, and “traditional Chinese entertainment.” Chinese social media users said “What??” Then, Chinese authorities said no. Some cultural boundaries last longer than others.

Verdi lady — A woman in Slovakia was arrested last week for playing a four-minute aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” in her house with speakers on full blast. From morning until night.  For 16 years.  “I love Placido Domingo,” a neighbor told a reporter. “But not like this.”

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On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become president because eighty-one million Americans, the highest tally in US history, voted to change course after four years of Donald Trump's leadership. Like all presidents, Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, take office with grand ambitions and high expectations, but rarely has a new administration taken power amid so much domestic upheaval and global uncertainty. And while Biden has pledged repeatedly to restore American "unity" across party lines — at a time of immense suffering, real achievements will matter a lot more than winged words.

Biden has a lot on his agenda, but within his first 100 days as president there are three key issues that we'll be watching closely for clues to how effectively he's able to advance their plans.

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We're only a few weeks into 2021 and that 'fresh new start' that so many had been hoping for at the end of 2020 has not exactly materialized. But what gives World Bank President David Malpass hope for the coming year? "The promise of humanity and of technology, people working together with communication, where they can share ideas. It allows an incredible advance for living standards." His wide-ranging conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

It wasn't pretty, but we made it to Inauguration Day. These last four years have taught the US a lot about itself — so what have we learned?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and it is the last full day of the Trump administration. Extraordinary four years, unprecedented in so many ways. I guess the most important feature for me is how much more divided the United States is, the world is, as coming out of the Trump administration than it was coming in. Not new. We were in a GZERO world, as I called it well before Trump was elected president. The social contract was seen as fundamentally problematic. Many Americans believed their system was rigged, didn't want to play the kind of international leadership role that the United States had heretofore, but all of those things accelerated under Trump.

So perhaps the most important question to be answered is, once Trump is gone, how much of that persists? It is certainly true that a President Biden is much more oriented towards trying to bring the United States back into existing multilateral architecture, whether that be the Paris Climate Accord, or more normalized immigration discussions with the Mexicans, the World Health Organization, the Iranian Nuclear Deal, some of which will be easy to do, like Paris, some of which will be very challenging, like Iran. But nonetheless, all sounds like business as usual.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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