What We’re Watching: “No-Deal” Brexit is back!

Deal or no deal? If you thought British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decisive victory in last week's UK election had resolved the anguish over if/when/how UK would leave the EU, think again. The UK will formally exit the EU in a matter of weeks, yes, but London still needs to negotiate a comprehensive EU trade deal during a transition period that lasts until the end of 2020. It would be a miracle if a pact could be negotiated in that time, but Johnson's government said yesterday it would not extend the deadline for such a deal. That means it's possible UK could leave the EU without any trade pact at all: a new variant of the dreaded "no-deal" scenario. The move, which raises pressure on the EU to offer the UK a good bargain on their future relationship, means we could be in for another 12 months of Brexit brinkmanship. And you thought it was over…muahahahaha!


A rupture at the UN over North Korea? It looks like somebody's been paying attention to Kim Jong-Un's recent antics. On Tuesday, Moscow and Beijing introduced a UN Security Council resolution that would loosen some economic sanctions on North Korea as a way to draw Pyongyang into fresh talks about its nuclear program. But the US – which, like Russia, China, France, and the UK, holds veto power at the Security Council -- has already killed the idea. We're watching to see how Kim responds.

A death sentence in Pakistan: Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999 and controversially supported former US President George W. Bush's "Global War on Terror", has been sentenced to death in absentia by a Pakistani court after being convicted of high treason. Musharraf imposed martial law in 2007 but was forced from office a year later. Since 2016 has lived in exile in Dubai, where he is fighting the treason charges from a hospital bed. Back home in Pakistan, the military – which has seized power countless times since independence in 1947 -- was not thrilled with the verdict.

What We're Ignoring

A washed up Estonian singer's jibes at a Finnish "sales girl": Estonia's Interior Minister Mart Helme, a member of the country's rightwing Ekre party, landed in hot water this week after he disparaged Finland's new 34-year-old prime minister Sanna Marin, who worked as a cashier before she entered politics, as a "sales girl." That's big talk coming from a guy who used to front a mediocre 80s Estonian country/rock band. We're ignoring this story, because unlike Mr Helme, we know that retail is hard work -- especially around the holidays.

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, it has a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. Last week, in furtherance of those commitments, Microsoft shared a grooming detection technique, code name "Project Artemis," by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function.

Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for twenty years, but he has a problem: his current presidential term ends in 2024, and the constitution prevents him from running for re-election then.

As a result, the question of what he'll do in 2024 has been on the minds of Russia's oligarchs, spooks, bureaucrats, and a lot of ordinary folks, as well. After all, over the past two decades, Putin has made himself, for better and for worse, the indispensable arbiter, boss, and glue of Russia's sprawling and corrupted system of government. As the current speaker of Russia's legislature once said, "Without Putin, there is no Russia." Not as we currently know it, no.

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It's been nine years since Libya's long-time despot Muammar Qaddafi was killed in a violent uprising, bringing the oil-rich country to the brink of civil war. That conflict entered a new stage last year when violence between warring factions competing for territory intensified around Tripoli, Libya's capital, leading to the displacement of some 300,000 civilians. In recent weeks, fighting has intensified again, and ceasefire talks have failed. Here's a look at who's who and how we got here.

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India's supreme court to weigh in on citizenship law – India's southern state of Kerala filed a lawsuit in India's Supreme Court, claiming that a contentious new citizenship law that's caused nationwide protests is discriminatory and violates India's secular constitution. Kerala is the first state to legally challenge the new law backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party, which opens a path to Indian citizenship for migrants from neighboring countries— provided that they are not Muslims. In addition to the Kerala action, at least some of the 60 petitions filed by individuals and political parties are also likely to be heard by the court next week. Amid a climate of deepening uncertainty for India's 200 million Muslims, we're watching closely to see how the court rules.

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Vladimir Putin has held power for twenty years now, alternating between the prime minister's seat and the presidency twice. He has made himself so indispensable to Russia's political system that even the speaker of the legislature has mused that "without Putin, there is no Russia." The constitution says he can't serve as president again after his current term ends in 2024 – but he'll find a way to keep power somehow. As he starts to lay those plans, here's a look back at his approval rating over the past two decades.