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What We’re Watching: Iranian cat cornered on nukes, Italy’s political maneuvers, Asian Americans targeted

What We’re Watching: Iranian cat cornered on nukes, Italy’s political maneuvers, Asian Americans targeted

Iran says "fine, we'll just get nukes then, are you happy?" Iran has threatened to openly pursue the development of nuclear weapons unless the United States removes the sanctions that it has placed on the Islamic Republic. The threat, which came from Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, raises the stakes as Tehran and Washington explore ways to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration left in 2018. Since then, the US has piled on more sanctions while Iran has breached limits on uranium enrichment. Now both sides are deadlocked over who should climb down first: Iran says the US has to drop sanctions, while Washington insists Tehran resume compliance with the original deal again before that can happen. Iran has for years officially, if not totally convincingly, denied that its nuclear program is for military use — but "if a cat is cornered," Alavi warned, "it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not." We were disappointed to learn that Mr Alavi passed up the opportunity to make this statement while using a cat filter on Zoom.

Italy's two Matteos: As former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi continues talks to form a new Italian coalition government, two powerful politicians named Matteo are jockeying for his attention. The first is former prime minister Matteo Renzi, who is taking credit for forcing the collapse of the previous cabinet headed by Giuseppe Conte and ushering in Draghi's appointment to avoid a fresh election in the middle of the pandemic. The second is Matteo Salvini, a former interior minister under Conte's first coalition cabinet and leader of the far-right Lega party, who is now embracing Draghi to please his wealthy northern voters after years of railing against the same Brussels bureaucracy that Draghi espoused when he led the ECB. At this point it's unclear if either Matteo, or even both, will join Draghi's government. But having a host of forces willing to offer you their support from the get-go is a rare feat in Italy, which traditionally churns through PMs at rapid pace amid a deeply fragmented and dysfunctional political system. Maybe the widely popular "Super Mario" really can save Italy — as he did with the Eurozone — after all.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans: In recent weeks, Asian Americans — particularly the elderly — have been targeted in a wave of violent attacks. The issue gained nationwide attention following the death of an 84-year-old Thai man violently pushed in San Francisco. US celebrities of Asian origin are now leading calls for justice on social media, and activists worry that it's going to get worse this weekend due to the Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatowns across America. The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans told us that the spike in hate crimes is "the result of the hostile, xenophobic climate created by scapegoating Asian communities for the pandemic," and stressed that seniors are particularly vulnerable and isolated due to COVID mobility restrictions. We're watching to see if the Biden administration follows through on its promise to tackle racist violence against Asian Americans, and whether a successful vaccine rollout contributes to more safety for members of these communities in the US.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics in Washington, DC:

Another stimulus bill is about to pass the Senate. Why won't the minimum wage be going up?

Well, the problem with the minimum wage is it didn't have the 50 votes it needed to overcome the procedural hurdles that prevent the minimum wage when traveling with the stimulus bill. Clearly support for $15 an hour minimum wage in the House of Representatives, but there's probably somewhere between 41 and 45 votes for it in the Senate. There may be a compromise level that emerges later in the year as some Republicans have indicated, they'd be willing to support a lower-level minimum wage increase. But typically, those proposals come along with policies that Democrats find unacceptable, such as an employment verification program for any new hire in the country. Labor unions have been really, really fixated on getting a $15 an hour minimum wage. They may not be up for a compromise. So, we'll see what happens.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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