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Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Italian contradictions — The populist Five Star Movement and Lega will now form a government after all. As Gabe Lipton wrote for us on Wednesday, they face some very tough choices. Polls indicate that 57 percent of Italians favor both a universal basic income and big tax cuts, promises offered by these two parties. More government spending and less government revenue is a questionable idea for a country with the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any EU country not named Greece. A new government in Rome doesn’t mean things have gotten any simpler.


Somali pirates — Incidents of piracy off Somalia’s coast jumped from 16 in 2015 to 27 in 2016 and to 54 in 2017, according to an annual report released by an anti-piracy NGO. The main source of the increase appears to be official complacency — fewer patrols and fewer precautions onboard ships.

Fredie Blom’s bad habit — South African Fredie Blom wants to quit smoking. He’s wanted to quit for a long time. We all know cigarettes can cause health problems, and Fredie blames the devil for his addiction. But we shouldn’t worry too much about his repeated failure to kick the habit, because Fredie Blom is 114 years old.​

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

The Larrea Letter — Billionaire businessman German Larrea published a letterthis week warning Mexico’s business community of the risks of electing a “populist” candidate as Mexico’s president. But a new poll this week showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the obvious target of this letter, with a 26-point lead on his nearest challenger ahead of the one-round July 1 presidential election. That’s probably because voters are less worried about the fortunes of Mexico’s business elite than about issues like security and corruption on which Lopez Obrador polls well.

The Trump-Kim Summit — President Trump invited Kim Kardashian to the White House on Wednesday to discuss “prison reform,” because… um…

A North Korean Burger Joint? — In a report published this week, CIA analysts argued that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, but agency officials also say Kim Jong-un might open a Western hamburger franchise in Pyongyang as a gesture of goodwill toward President Trump. Even if I found myself unexpectedly in Pyongyang and ravenously hungry, your Friday author wants no part of a North Korean Happy Meal.

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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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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