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Watching/Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

State elections in Bavaria: Fresh off Oktoberfest celebrations, voters in Germany’s southeastern state of Bavaria head to the polls in a statewide election on Sunday that is likely to deal a blow to the governing CSU party—a key partner of Chancellor Merkel’s center-right CDU in the national government. The Bavarian CSU has taken a hit ever since picking – and losing – a fight with the canny Ms. Merkel over border controls earlier this year. But if the CSU fares poorly this weekend, Merkel herself could end up on the ropes: she needs their support to maintain her governing coalition, and there are already calls for her to step down early in order to make way for a new generation of center-right leaders.


Cocaine hippos: In honor of Willis, Signal’s zoographer-in-chief: Four hippopotamuses once owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar have spawned dozens of wild offspring since his killing in 1993, posing a tricky dilemma for the Colombian government. On the one hand, the hippos – a species not native to South America – may have a serious impact on the ecosystems of the rivers and lakes where they now splash, yawn, and chill. On the other hand, culling, moving, or castrating these “cocaine hippos” is both controversial and dangerous (just you try it). For now, the hippos are being left to their own devices – but they are closely watched by both scientists and Signalists alike.

Bonus Hippo material: Speakers of Egyptian Arabic will recall that the dialect term for hippo translates literally as “Mister Cream” – so spare a thought, if you will, for these “Colombian cocaine mister creams.”

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s claims that he’s feeling just fine: Nothing to see here, according to the Filipino strongman, who recently emerged from a surprise trip to the hospital with news that he was “not yet cancerous.” But all signs are that Duterte is making arrangements for a successor in the event that he’s unable to serve out his full term. His allies have introduced a constitutional reform that would temporarily skip over the vice president and put the president of the Senate – a key ally named Tito Sotto – next in line of succession. At the same time, Duterte ally Bongbong Marcos (son of former dictator Fernando and his shoe-crazed wife Imelda) is seeking to invalidate the election of the current vice president Leni Robredo, a Duterte opponent, and to take her place.

China’s application to join the Trade Deal Formerly Known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Beijing is reportedly looking into joining the new 11-nation trade agreement that emerged after President Trump pulled the US out of the original TPP pact last year. China didn’t apply for membership during previous rounds of negotiations – the original TPP was, after all, intended to contain China’s economic influence in Asia. But with the US gone and trade tensions with Washington rising, at least one well-placed Beijing academic thinks China may be looking to the pact as a way to shield itself from an increasingly hostile US. Still, it seems pretty safe to write this one off as posturing – a state-dominated economy like China would struggle to live up to the standards required in the agreement.

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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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