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What We’re Watching: Mexican women demand abortion rights, Kuwaiti emir dies, Duterte hits Facebook

Women take part in a protest in Mexico City to demand abortions are legalized in the country. Reuters

Mexico reckons with abortion rights: Scores of people joined protests in Mexico's capital on Monday, demanding the legalization of abortion in the majority Roman Catholic country. The demonstrations coincided with International Safe Abortion Day, which aims to ensure women around the world have access to safe sexual and reproductive health services. In Mexico, which has a female population of at least 65 million, the procedure is banned outside Mexico City and the southern state of Oaxaca (which moved to legalize the procedure last year), though it's legal in instances of rape. More than half of all pregnancies in Mexico are estimated to be unintended, leading many women to seek (botched) illegal abortions that often lead to complications requiring serious medical care. Protesters clashed with police — with some women even hurling Molotov cocktails — as confrontations became increasingly heated throughout the day. Many attendees were clad in green scarfs, which have become the symbol of the pro-choice movement in parts of Latin America in recent years. Some analysts say that the recent death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a women's right icon, has put renewed global focus on abortion rights — and women's rights more broadly.


Kuwait emir dies: Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah died on Tuesday at age 91. Taking over the reigns of the country in 2006 following four decades as foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah leveraged his diplomatic skills for tiny yet oil-rich Kuwait to punch above its weight in regional politics, charting an independent foreign policy that largely stayed out of traditional Middle Eastern feuds and rivalries. His legacy includes a key mediation role when three Gulf states — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — cut off relations and blockaded Qatar in 2014 over the latter's alleged support of terrorism and ties to Iran. Sheikh Sabah also oversaw a stable alliance with the US, which fought the the 1991 Gulf War to liberate the emirate from Saddam Hussein and keeps around 13,000 troops in Kuwait. On the domestic front, he was relatively popular (by Gulf absolute monarchy standards) although in 2011 Skeikh Sabah had to dissolve parliament and crack down on Arab Spring-inspired protests that threatened the royal family's rule over Kuwait. Kuwait's new emir is Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who is already 82. We'll be watching whom he appoints as crown prince in a long-term succession process that is a bit more complicated than in other Gulf monarchies because the royal family is not as united and the crown prince must deal with parliament, which has more power in Kuwait than elsewhere in the region.

What We're Ignoring

Duterte's Facebook rant: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out at Facebook after it blocked several fake accounts operated by members of the military and the police found to be spreading misinformation in support of the government. Although these days strongmen threatening to shut down Facebook after complaining of political bias are a dime a dozen, we're ignoring Duterte's tirade because he only takes issue when Facebook doesn't serve his own political goals. The Philippine leader used an army of Facebook trolls to get elected in 2016, and once in office, his aides continued weaponizing the social media platform to defend Duterte's bloody war on drugs and call out critics such as prominent journalist Maria Ressa. Additionally, the military recently admitted that Facebook is a great medium to rally popular support against "enemies of the state." Not to mention that banning a platform used by 96 percent of social media-obsessed Filipinos would hurt Duterte's popularity...

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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