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Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

The Tunisian Gravedigger  Chamseddine Marzoug walks the beaches of Zarzis, Tunisia looking for the bodies of those who drowned while trying to reach Europe by boat. When he finds a corpse, he lays it in a body bag and takes it to a nearby hospital for examination. Once a report is filed, he washes the body and takes it to a graveyard dedicated to the unknown dead. He then buries the bodies in graves he has dug himself. In the process, he treats these unfortunate men, women, and children with a care and dignity they may never have known in life.


Cortlandt Street Station  After 17 years, New York’s Cortlandt Streetsubway station, nearly destroyed by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, has officially reopened. It’s disorienting to see a shiny, clean station anywhere in New York City, but those who work on Wall Street are glad to finally have it back.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Russian alibis – Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, accused by British authorities of the poisoning attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March, told the Russian state-run RT channel they were in the UK as tourists when the Skripals were poisoned with a rare nerve agent sprayed on Skripal’s front door. The two men say they are sports nutrition salesmen who visited Salisbury only to see the famously tall spire atop its cathedral. British officials say the two men work for Russian military intelligence and that police have surveillance footage of the two men near Skripal’s home.

Russian threats – Viktor Zolotov is fighting mad. This former bodyguard to Vladimir Putin posted a challenge on YouTube in response to what he says are false corruption charges levelled against him by Kremlin gadfly and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny. “Nobody has ever given you the spanking you deserve, so hard that you felt it in your liver,” warned Zolotov. “I simply challenge you to a duel… I promise in several minutes to make a nice juicy steak out of you.” Colorful threats, but the Petrov/Boshirov interviews were more entertaining.

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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