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Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Brazil’s embattled presidential candidates  Think Washington had a crazy political week? Here’s your update from Brazil ahead of next month's presidential election. Former President Lula remains in jail. His likely replacement as Worker’s Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, and center-right candidate Geraldo Alckmin were both charged with corruption. Front-runner Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed at a campaign rally and seriously injured.


Mauricio Macri – Elected in 2015 on the promise to restore Argentina’s economic health, Argentine President Mauricio Macri has imposed just enough austerity to inflict pain on the public without persuading investors the country can meet its financial obligations. A serious meltdown, provoked by conditions both inside and outside his country, has created a currency crisis. The peso has lost half its value against the dollar this year. This week, Macri took drastic action, sharply raising taxes and cutting the number of government ministries by half to reduce spending. The central bank has raised interest rates to 60 percent. Will it be enough? And can he remain a viable candidate for re-election next year while imposing more hardship on voters?

Iran’s oil customers  In anticipation of the return of sanctions on Iran’s oil in November, its exports fell by 18 percent from July to August. That’s in part because, surprisingly, China and India have sharply reduced purchases in line with Donald Trump’s demands. Neither will stop buying Iranian crude altogether, but the degree of compliance was unexpected. That’s not good news for Iran’s economy, or for those who hope Iran might continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear deal without US participation.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

North Korea at 70  China’s Xi Jinping is skipping North Korea’s 70th anniversary celebration this weekend, and we will too. If you’ve seen one goose-stepping military parade followed by a 3,000-person choreographed dance with a flashcard backdrop, you’ve seen them all. Maybe we’ll TIVO it.

Putin TV show – Nor are we likely to watch “Moscow Kremlin Putin,” a new TV show airing on Russian state television that aims to prove Vladimir Putin is even hunkier than we thought. Apparently, Putin remains in great shape, frightens wild animals, and has a “human, sincere attitude toward children.” We know that already.

The Austrian Kangaroo – Your Friday author was not amused when fellow Signalistas forwarded him a story about a kangaroo on the loose in Austria. Not Australia. Austria. “This is the kind of low-brow material you love to include on Fridays,” they seemed to suggest. Yes, I like stories about animals on the loose, but I’m not automatically going to write about a kangaroo hopping around Austria just because it includes great video, and the story is weird. Forget it.

As of this writing, the kangaroo remains at large.

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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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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