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What We're Watching: Bibi's trouble, Putin's Kyrgyz problem, Bolsonaro "ends" corruption

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu on the ropes: Things have gone from bad to worse in recent days for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longtime prime minister. Protests — the biggest anti-government mobilization in years — swept the nation after Israel recorded the highest number of new daily COVID cases amid its worst-ever recession. But one thing Netanyahu has always had going for him is the steadfast loyalty of his Likud party… until now. As the Israeli PM's approval rating dipped to 26 percent, several Likud members broke with decades of precedent by speaking out against his poor handling of the country's "second wave." (A whopping 49 percent of Israelis say they've lost faith in the government and want new elections.) Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett, a former protégé of Netanyahu who heads the far-right Yemina party, is surging ahead in the polls. In recent weeks it seemed increasingly likely that Netanyahu would steer the country towards new elections (the fourth in less than two years) in order to bypass a parliamentary stalemate on key issues. But with his upcoming corruption trial and cratering support, it seems like the forever leader's options might be running out…


The Kremlin's Kyrgyz concerns: The prime minister has resigned. Opposition parties are squabbling over who is in control. Mass protests are calling for the ouster of the president. The political crisis in Kyrgyzstan, which began with allegations of fraud in last weekend's parliamentary vote, is deepening by the day, and Russian president Vladimir Putin can't be happy about it. Alongside the recent democratic uprising in Belarus and a spiraling war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, this is the third major new crisis to flare up among former Soviet republics that Russia considers to be within its sphere of influence. On Thursday, the Kremlin weighed in saying Kyrgyzstan is "in chaos" and cited its treaty obligations to stabilize the country. We are watching to see if local forces can settle their differences enough to get to an election re-run, or whether Putin — who just two weeks ago pledged his support to the embattled Kyrgyz President — feels he has to act more decisively before things get worse.

No more corruption in Brazil? Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has decided to end the landmark "Operation Car Wash" corruption investigation because, he says, under his watch, government corruption is no longer a problem. "Operation Car Wash" was a sweeping graft probe that landed hundreds of businesspeople and former President "Lula" da Silva in jail for accepting illegal kickbacks from construction projects — and helped Bolsonaro win Brazil's 2017 presidential election after it exposed rampant corruption linked to the then-ruling Workers' Party. It seems Bolsonaro may have forgotten that Sergio Moro, the federal prosecutor who led that probe before he became Bolsonaro's former justice minister, quit months ago after the president fired the national police chief for looking into the alleged criminal activities of several Bolsonaro allies (including two of Bolsonaro's sons). We're keeping an eye on how the president's latest gambit plays out in next month's municipal elections.

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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