What We're Watching: A fracas in Caracas

A fracas in Caracas – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido was voted out as speaker of the country's Congress over the weekend after soldiers stopped him from entering the building. (He tried to jump a fence, but was stopped by soldiers with riot shields.) That allowed an ally of strongman Nicolas Maduro's government to claim the post instead. Guaido, whom the US and several other countries have recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader, won a second vote by lawmakers who gathered at the offices of an opposition newspaper, and he's contesting what some people are calling a "parliamentary coup." Guaido called the fracas "another blunder" by the regime and pushed through the military cordon on Tuesday onto the floor of Congress, where he and his supporters chanted "here, the people rule!" Still, the duelling claims to the speakership are yet another blow to his sputtering anti-Maduro insurgency.


John Bolton – On Monday, President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement that "if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify" in the Senate impeachment trial. That's a potentially big deal, because Bolton, formerly a key player in Trump's foreign policy team, is widely respected among Republicans, and many Democrats believe his testimony would prove deeply embarrassing, and perhaps politically damaging, for the president. Bolton will testify only if 51 senators—and, therefore, at least four Republicans—vote to make it happen. We'll be watching to see if Bolton is called to testify, what the White House might do to try to stop him, how Bolton's testimony is shared with the public, and exactly what he has to say.

Spain has a (fragile) government – After nearly a year of caretaker government, Spain's socialist leader Pedro Sanchez secured a (very) narrow parliamentary majority on Monday, allowing him to form the first coalition government in modern Spain's history. Sanchez's Socialist party, which finished first in two inconclusive elections in 2019, was finally able to form a government thanks to the backing of smaller regional parties, including a grouping of Catalan separatists. With his coalition partner, the left-wing Unidas Podemos party, Sanchez will push for tax increases for high-income earners and other new policies. But in the highly fractious parliament, the government will need to negotiate with other parties to pass legislation – including those disgruntled separatist lawmakers who want a binding independence referendum in Catalonia. Will Spain's protracted political stalemate come to an end, or will it be deadlock as usual?

What We're Ignoring

The Pentagon's "mistake" – After 17 years of gruelling combat and painstaking negotiations, the US presence in Iraq appeared to be coming to an end. So said a message on US Army letterhead delivered to Iraqi military officials on Monday before making its way to the American media. "We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure," it read, responding to the recent Iraqi parliament vote ordering the expulsion of US forces from its country. But the memo's veracity was undercut in less than an hour when the Pentagon said that release of the letter – a draft – was a "mistake." Soon after, another Pentagon official said it was actually fake, calling it "active disinformation." We're ignoring this confusion because we're pretty sure that if the US decides to pull out of Iraq, we'll hear about it first from President Trump on Twitter.

Scientists, engineers and technologists are turning to nature in search of solutions to climate change. Biomimicry is now being applied in the energy sector, medicine, architecture, communications, transport and agriculture in a bid to make human life on this planet more sustainable and limit the impacts of global warming. New inventions have been inspired by humpback whales, kingfishers and mosquitoes.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

The drumbeat for regulating artificial intelligence (AI) is growing louder. Earlier this week, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, became the latest high-profile Silicon Valley figure to call for governments to put guardrails around technologies that use huge amounts of (sometimes personal) data to teach computers how to identify faces, make decisions about mortgage applications, and myriad other tasks that previously relied on human brainpower.

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January 27 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp. But even as some 40 heads of state gathered in Jerusalem this week to commemorate the six million Jews who were killed, a recent Pew survey revealed that many American adults don't know basic facts about the ethnic cleansing of Europe's Jews during the Second World War. Fewer than half of those polled knew how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and close to a third didn't know when it actually happened. Here's a look at some of the numbers.

1: The Greek parliament has elected a woman president for the first time since the country's independence some 200 years ago. A political outsider, Katerina Sakellaropoulou is a high court judge with no known party affiliation. "Our country enters the third decade of the 21st century with more optimism," Greece's prime minister said.

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A quarantine in China– Local authorities have locked down the city of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak of a new and potentially deadly respiratory virus that, as of Thursday morning, had infected more than 540 people in at least six countries. Other nearby cities were also hit by travel restrictions. Rail and air traffic out of Wuhan has been halted. Public transportation is shut, and local officials are urging everyone to stay put unless they have a special need to travel. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people, many of whom were about to travel for the Chinese New Year. We're watching to see whether these extraordinary measures help stem the outbreak, but also to see how the people affected respond to the clampdown.

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