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What We're Watching: A Dammed Denial in the Nile

What We're Watching: A Dammed Denial in the Nile

Britain's Supreme Court – The UK's Supreme Court will rule as soon as the end of this week on whether it was unlawful for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament for several weeks during a critical period ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline. A court in Scotland said it was, arguing that Johnson misled the Queen into suspending Parliament in order to limit MPs' ability to block Johnson's plans to lead the UK out of the EU with a deal or not. But a court in England took the government's position that none of this is for the courts to decide. So now the highest court in the land will rule on the matter. The wily Johnson says he'll abide by what the justices say. Let's see. (Weird trivia: the UK has had a Supreme Court for only ten years.)


Denial of The Nile – Ethiopia, one of the world's fastest growing economies, has been building a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile in order to boost its industries. Sudan, next door, is in favor of the project too. But Egypt, which is downstream of both and relies on the river for 90 percent of its freshwater, is very sensitive about it, and the two sides have in the past exchanged veiled threats of war over the river. That's why we're alarmed to learn that ongoing negotiations about water rights between Cairo and Addis Ababa have reportedly broken down again, just days ahead of a big meeting between the three countries. The Ethiopians say the dam will begin operating by the end of next year – but without a negotiated compromise, that could turn into a deadline for major conflict.

What We're Ignoring

Marco Rubio on Islands – "I will begin exploring ways to cut off ties with Solomon Islands including potentially ending financial assistance and restricting access to U.S. dollars and banking." So tweeted Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on Tuesday, in response to the "shameful" decision by the Solomons, a group of islands east of Australia, to cut ties with Taiwan in favor of closer ties with China. Some of the archipelago nation's 600,000 people are probably wondering what action the US will take against itself, since Washington recognized China and ended formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1978. In any case, the implications of all this for Taiwan are negligible.

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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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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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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