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Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Nicaragua — Last week, hundreds of people hit the streets of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, to protest announced cuts to the country’s pension system. Men wearing motorcycle helmets and pro-government tee-shirts attacked the protesters with metal pipes and electric cables. In response, thousands of new demonstrators appeared, and demonstrations spread to other cities. Protesters and police were killed. Strongman president Daniel Ortega then rescinded the pension order, but the turmoil continues. As in Brazil, Turkey, and Ethiopia in recent years, a brutal response to a small protest has triggered something much more dangerous. Ortega’s two stints in power date to 1979. Has he outstayed his welcome? Serzh Sargsyan is calling on line one.


Biplab Deb — Earlier this month, a local Indian official named Biplab Depclaimed that Hindus invented the Internet thousands of years ago. His evidence? Referring to the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, written between 1,600 and 2,400 years ago, he asked, “How could Sanjaya [the king’s charioteer] give a detailed account and description to the blind king about the Battle of Kurukshetra? … We had Internet and a satellite communication system. It is not like Internet or media wasn’t available in the age of Mahabharata,” he said. Even fellow Hindu nationalists are having fun with this guy on the Internet.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

“Death to America” emojis — Signalista Kevin Allison notes that Iran’s government has launched a new messaging app that features “Death to America” emojis. Your Friday author’s personal favorite is an emoji of a chador-clad woman carrying a sign to protest Freemasonry. History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce, and then as kitsch.

The Royal Rumble — Signalista Gabe Lipton opened Wednesday’s New York Times to discover an ad featuring an invitation from “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” to witness a “Royal Rumble” wrestling event at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah. Our excitement faded when we saw that no actual Saudi royals will be wrestling. None of your Signal authors plans to attend.

Unjust Desserts — South Korea announced this week that, at the conclusion of the Moon-Kim summit, guests would be served a mango mousse with a decorative flag placed on top that contains a map of a unified Korea that includes small islands controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan. Tokyo was not amused.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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