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What we're watching: Kim Jong-Un's weird frozen cosplay

What we're watching: Kim Jong-Un's weird frozen cosplay

Catalonia's violent revolt: Violent protests have roiled the Spanish region of Catalonia for days since the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over their roles in the illegal 2017 independence referendum. Separatists have torched cars and rubbish bins. Police are shooting at them with rubber bullets, and at least 100 people have been hurt. Damages in the Catalan capital of Barcelona have already topped 1 million euros, and neither side shows signs of backing down. To the contrary. Quim Torra, Catalan government chief, has now pledged to hold a new independence vote within two years. As Spain heads to national elections next month, its fourth in four years, we're watching to see if the renewed focus on the separatist movement might swing voters, particularly if these protests get worse.


Kim Jong-un riding a horse up a snowy mountain: North Korea's state-run news agency released a series of propaganda photos of Kim Jong-un gliding across a powdered mountain atop a regal white horse. Twitter was abuzz with witty commentary about the photos, and rightly so: they're as amusing as you'd think, perhaps even rivaling Vladimir Putin's iconic bare-chested horse-riding snaps. But the propaganda could actually be a sign of something more than just the Dear Leader's wintry equestrian bliss. The backdrop for the shoot, Mount Paektu, has a sacred meaning in North Korean regime folklore: it's the mythical birthplace of Kim II Sung – Kim's grandfather and the founder of North Korea – and it was a tactical base during the Korean War. In the past, Kim Jong-un has visited the site before making major geopolitical moves. We're going to resist the urge to speculate here, but we're watching to see what Kim has in store now that he's come down from the mountain.

Canada's unpopular candidates battle it out: Canadians will head to the polls on Monday to elect a prime minister, ending six weeks of campaigning that has focused more on personality and ad-hominem attacks than on policy. Justin Trudeau, the sitting prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party, and the Conservative Party's Andrew Scheer, have been polling neck and neck, but neither is expected to win an outright majority, raising the prospect that a smaller party might emerge as powerbroker in forming a parliamentary majority. Trudeau's popularity has dipped in recent months after a series of scandals that dealt a blow to his finely-honed progressive image. Chief among them were photos that emerged showing that he'd worn blackface and brownface two decades ago. In what appeared to be a last-minute ditch to boost his prospects, Trudeau received an endorsement from President Obama, who's popular among Canadians. But after a contentious campaign will this be enough to get the incumbent over the line?

What We're Ignoring:

Pete Navarro's imaginary friends: Much of Donald Trump's policy against China has been shaped by one of his top advisers, the Harvard-trained economist Peter Navarro, author – most famously – of the book Death By China. But it now appears that one of Mr. Navarro's own top advisers is an imaginary person. Many of Mr. Navarro's books feature a character named Ron Vara, who exudes an earthy sort of wisdom with bons mots like "don't play checkers in a chess world" or slightly crazier musings like, "only the Chinese can turn a leather sofa into an acid bath." Mr. Vara, whose name is an anagram of his creator's, is a convenient figment of Navarro's imagination. However, Mr. Navarro, whose hardline views on China carry a lot of weight in the West Wing, is not.

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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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

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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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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