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Frustrated by the failure to get a $60 billion emergency aid package to Ukraine through Congress, Joe Biden is working on Plan B.

The president has said that he wants G7 countries to come up with a means of tapping the $282 billion in frozen Russian central bank assets by the time leaders meet in Italy in June.

Even though the meeting in Apulia is more than three months away, it might take at least that long to reach a consensus on how to pluck the goose to obtain the most feathers with the least amount of hissing.

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Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Coastal Carolina University before the South Carolina Republican primary in Conway, South Carolina, on Feb. 10, 2024.

REUTERS/Sam Wolfe/File Photo

Donald Trump can make his own claims to transforming the world beyond America’s borders – though whether it is by design, only he knows.

The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination made news last month when he said he would not necessarily protect NATO countries that did not hit spending targets.

He said he was asked by the leader of a “delinquent” nation whether he would protect them from Russian invasion, even if they did not meet NATO’s spending target of 2% of GDP. He said he replied: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (the Russians) to do whatever the hell they want.”

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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies to the Senate Banking Committee in Washington, DC.

Jasper Colt-USA TODAY via Reuters

The millions of homeowners who have seen their mortgage payments double in recent years would no doubt concur with Mark Twain in his assessment of bankers – as the type of people who lend you an umbrella when the sun is shining and want it back as soon as it starts to rain.

Hopes for a break in the monetary policy clouds were frustrated this week as two North American central bankers said that interest rate cuts remain some way off.

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Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland takes part in a press conference in Ottawa, Canada, on Jan. 29, 2024.

REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland plans to unveil the federal budget on April 16, a release that will be keenly watched north and south of the border. Big Tech companies, in particular, will be looking for clues about when Canada will implement its long-promised digital services tax.

Justin Trudeau’s cash-strapped Liberal government hopes to raise up to $2.5 billion over five years by imposing a 3% tax on companies like Alphabet, Meta, Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb. First promised in the 2021 budget, the Trudeau government said it would implement the tax on Jan. 1, 2024, retroactive to 2022.

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Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney reacts to a standing ovation at the Canadian Club in Ottawa, Canada, on Sept. 14, 2007.

REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

Americans don’t pay much attention to Canadian politics for the simple reason that they are a less exciting version of what is going on in the US – with added snow.

However, the passing of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at the age of 84 has prompted a flood of glowing obituary articles in many American media outlets. Politico’s headline referred to Canada losing its “Washington Whisperer” – a man who gave eulogies for not one, but two former US presidents – Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

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Activists rallied against Premier Danielle Smith's proposed LGBTQ2S+ regulations and legislation that impacts transgender and non-binary youth, on Feb. 03, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Reuters

Conservative politicians on both sides of the border are bracing for the progressive response to legislation critics say discriminates against members of the transgender community.

In Alberta, populist United Conservative Premier Danielle Smith has introduced a series of measures she says boost parental rights and protect children. All reassignment surgeries for minors will be prohibited; puberty blockers and hormone therapies will be barred for those 15 and under, and limited for “mature teens;” parents must consent to children 15 and under altering their name or pronouns in school; while athletes assigned male sex at birth will not be able to compete in women's sports.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Smith’s plan “the most anti-LGBT policies anywhere in the country.”

Meanwhile, in Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has introduced legislation that excludes transgender people from “sex-segregated spaces” and requires that they list their sex at birth on their birth certificate. A similar move to require that their sex at birth be listed on driver's licenses was defeated.

Transgender activists in Iowa compared the proposed legislation to requiring gay people to wear a pink triangle during the Holocaust. Others have pointed out that the birth certificate provision is a violation of privacy in a state that bars governments from disclosing medical information on IDs, including COVID-19 vaccination status.

Democratic Rep. Sharon Stechman, in Iowa’s General Assembly, summed it up well: “I can think of a million other things we should be doing besides going after 0.29% of our population.”

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting of the Investing in America Cabinet in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Friday. May 5, 2023.

Tom Brenner/Reuters

The polls are grim these days for incumbent governments. Both President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are trailing their challengers, Donald Trump and Pierre Poilievre, particularly when it comes to economic matters.

A new NBC News poll suggested only 36% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, compared to 61% who disapprove. Trump held a 5 percentage point lead when it came to voting intentions. Similarly, two in three Canadians believe Trudeau is taking the country in the wrong direction, while Poilievre holds a lead of up to 15 points on voting intentions for an election that could be 18 months out.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Maxim Shipenkov/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

A new report quoted in the Globe and Mail suggests how Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping’s “friendship without limits” is progressing: Russia is giving very generously in exchange for China buying its oil.

The report by Strider Technologies says China is gaining a major foothold in the Arctic as Russia shifts its defense priorities to the war in Ukraine. Since Putin’s invasion, 234 Chinese-owned companies have registered to operate in the Russian-controlled Arctic, Strider said, an 87% increase on the two years prior. Besides resource exploitation and investment aimed at developing Russia’s Northern Sea shipping route, the two have been deepening security ties in the form of joint exercises in the Bering Sea.

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