What We’re Watching: Kim Jong-un is messing with our emotions!

Kim Jong-un keeps everybody waiting – Christmas has come and gone without the promised "gift" from the North Korean dictator, but we're still watching to figure out what he's up to. Maybe Kim chickened out and decided not to test a new ICBM as some experts feared. Or maybe he's just waiting until his year-end deadline for progress in talks with the US lapses before lashing out. Maybe he really meant Orthodox Christmas, which falls on January 6th. Or perhaps Chinese and Russian efforts to convince the UN to roll back some sanctions have changed his thinking. Whatever the case, we expect that North Korea will continue to make headlines in the new year – and not in a good way.


Iran's reaction to US airstrikes – US warplanes struck at Iranian proxy militias in Iraq and Syria over the weekend, killing 25 fighters allegedly in response to the death on Friday of a US civilian contractor in a rocket attack in Iraq. Iran, which uses its proxies to maintain military and political influence in Iraq and Syria, has warned of a tough response. We'd note that neither side has killed members of the other's military, but we are watching closely to see if and how this may escalate.

Strange political bedfellows in Austria, a trend? – The center-right Austrian People's Party is reportedly on the verge of agreeing to form a government with the left-wing Greens. A deal would return People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz to the prime ministership just months after a corruption scandal brought down the party's coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. We're watching this story because it shows how ideologically flexible European mainstream parties may need to be in order to stay in power.. For example, could this merger of odd political bedfellows persuade Germany's center-right CDU to turn to Germany's Greens if Chancellor Merkel's grand coalition with the center-left SPD falls apart next year?

What We're Ignoring

The Pope's call for communication – Pope Francis called on the faithful last week to put away their mobile phones while at the dinner table. His Holiness is making an undeniably laudable point: spending less time hunched over our phones would almost certainly mean better conversations, more meaningful relationships, and possibly a better world. But we do wonder where the Pope's 18 million Twitter followers got this news.

As Europe inches past the peak of COVID-19 deaths and the US slowly approaches it, many poorer countries are now staring into an abyss. As bad as the coronavirus crisis is likely to be in the world's wealthiest nations, the public health and economic blow to less affluent ones, often referred to as "developing countries," could be drastically worse. Here's why:

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25: A divorce lawyer in Shanghai told Bloomberg News that his business has surged 25% since the city began easing its lockdown in mid-March, as being cooped up on lockdown evidently exposed irreconcilable differences in people's marriages.

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Japan mulls state of emergency: Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe is poised to declare a "state of emergency" because of the coronavirus pandemic, giving local governments the authority to order people to stay in their homes and shutter businesses and schools. Japan has so far managed the crisis without the kinds of sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere, but a surge of new cases in recent days – particularly in Tokyo – has put pressure on the government to do more. Japan has one of the world's oldest populations – a third of its people are older than 65, the demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19. The emergency decision comes at a tough time. Japan's economy has been hurting for several months now, as China's massive lockdowns in January and February cratered demand for Japanese exports. In order to deal with the fallout that comes with putting his economy on life-support, PM Abe said the government would push through a $1 trillion stimulus package.

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As reports swirl from sources in the U.S. Intelligence Community that China vastly underreported the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths, China's top diplomat in the U.S., Ambassador Cui Tiankai, joined Ian Bremmer for an exclusive conversation in which he responds to the claim.

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