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.

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Even with innovations in fintech and digital payments, roadblocks related to basic infrastructure like electricity and internet connectivity still prevent many migrant workers from being able to transfer money to their families back home with a truly digital end-to-end flow. While more workers can send money digitally today, the majority of people still receive funds in cash. Read more about why public-private partnerships are key to advancing the future of global money movement and why it matters from experts at the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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