What We Are Watching & What We Are Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Brazil's president-elect vs a jaguar – Just three weeks before he takes office, Jair Bolsonaro is facing a corruption scandal. It seems that while his son Flavio Bolsonaro was a state lawmaker, his personal driver's bank account swelled into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What's more, the driver evidently made a transfer directly to Jair Bolsonaro's wife.


The senior Bolsonaro says the payments discovered by a local Rio anti-corruption investigation amazingly named "The Jaguar's Cave" – was simply repayment for a loan. Whether there is more to the story remains to be seen, but even a whiff of corruption is a bad vibe for Bolsonaro. Back in October, millions of Brazilians were willing to overlook his (extremely) divisive rhetoric because they saw him as a fitting rebuke to a corrupted political elite. As he prepares to take power, can he and his sons – all of whom are politicians as well – walk the walk?

Migrant crisis in Bosnia – A generation ago, more than half a million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina fled their homes amid the Yugoslav civil wars. Today, the small and politically precarious Balkan country is struggling with its own influx of people in need. More than 20,000 migrants and asylum seekers from the Middle East and South Asia have officially entered Bosnia this year, hoping to make a clandestine crossing into Croatia, an EU member state. Last year the number was below 1,000, but since other routes into Europe – in particular via Serbia into Hungary – have been closed off, migrants have focused on Bosnia. Absorbing refugees can be an economic and political challenge even for the wealthiest countries, but Bosnia is already one of the poorest and most politically precarious countries in Europe. Aid from the EUand Turkey is helping, but as winter approaches, the UN has warned that a full blown humanitarian crisis could soon emerge.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

The Trump/Pelosi/Schumer meeting – Later today, President Trump, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will meet to discuss a potential deal to avert a partial government shutdown before Christmas. In the past, Democrats offered $25 billion for the president's border wall in exchange for protection for 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants who face deportation. Trump agreed, then changed his mind. With Democrats now set to control the House, and Democratic voters who don't want any compromise with Trump, Pelosi and Schumer have much less reason to meet Trump halfway. We'd ignore this meeting and focus on the likelihood of a shutdown – if you want to visit a US national park with the family this holiday season, do it now!

The forced exile of 5,000 Spanish pigeons Officials in the Andalusian port city of Cadiz are preparing to trap and relocate some 5,000 pigeons whose appetites and droppings are, local hoteliers say, scaring off tourists. The great pigeon deportation, which is to take place next year, is a more humane way to deal with the birds than poisoning them, for sure. And the hope is that they'll happily adapt to their new homes somewhere in eastern Spain. We are ignoring this because we think the birds are smart enough to find their way back to their seaside haunts in Cadiz. After all, Spain has a long and illustrious history with homing pigeons.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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