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Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Trump and Cuba — Last year, the Trump administration banned US citizens from doing business with dozens of entities linked to Cuba’s military and security services. In the process, the president indulged one of his favorite pastimes: undoing stuff Obama did. But 20 years ago, a report in Newsweek alleged that representatives of a Trump company had gone to Cuba to explore business opportunities in violation of the Cuba embargo. As Cuba moves beyond the Castros, might Trump want to outdo Obama again, this time by ending the embargo, while creating new opportunities for the family business?


Killer robots — To extend my fascination with 1968 another week, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the release of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the greatest film ever made that you should never start watching after 9pm. In other news, governments met in Geneva this week to discuss whether and how to regulate killer robots. Officials call them “Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems,” but they’re talking about killer robots.

Buhari’s bid —Despite unanswered questions about the state of his health, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari announced Monday that he’ll run for re-election. The vote will be held next February. Buhari is 75, and he spent several months in London last year receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness. In 2015, Buhari’s inauguration marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, since the country returned to democracy in 1999. But his poor health has contributed to fears that the corruption- and terrorism-plagued country lacks effective leadership. Within hours of his announcement, Buhari boarded a plane for London, though officials won’t say whether he plans to receive medical treatment there.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

The Myanmar verdicts — On Wednesday, a military court in Myanmar sentenced seven Myanmar soldiers to 10 years in prison with hard labor for “contributing and participating” in the murder of 10 Rohingya Muslims. The evidence suggests there were a whole lot more than seven people involved in crimes against the Rohingya. And as of this writing, two Reuters journalists arrested for investigating this crime are still in jail.

A “Protect Mueller” Law — The Senate Judiciary Committee may vote on a bipartisan bill designed to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Trump. The measure would reportedly give any special counsel 10 days after being fired to challenge the dismissal in court. We’re skeptical this proposal will ever go to the full Senate for a vote.

Hódmezővásárhely — Five weeks ago, I highlighted the Hungarian town of Hódmezővásárhely, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party had just taken a 16-point shock defeat in an election for mayor. “Is this a harbinger of electoral trouble for Orban,” I wrote? Hardly. Orban and Fidesz won a landslide victory in national elections this week. Extensive research (a one-minute Google image search) assures us that Hódmezővásárhely, aka “The Peasant Paris,” is a lovely town, but we’ll now go back to ignoring it.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Listen: The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins Ian Bremmer to talk vaccines, school re-openings, and when—and how—the pandemic could finally come end. He was last on GZERO World just weeks before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019 and he described at the time what kept him up at night: a "pandemic-like respiratory illness." This time, he talks about how closely that nightmare scenario foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offers some guidance about what public health measures vaccinated Americans should continue to take in the coming months (hint: masks stay on).

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.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

Quick Take