What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

What We're Watching

Protests in Hungary – Starting last week, thousands of anti-government protesters have hit the streets in Hungary. The unrest began when the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban forced through a new labor law that permits bosses to demand 400 hours of overtime annually and to delay paying workers for those hours for up to three years.

The measure aims to solve Hungary's chronic labor shortages without accepting more immigrants, whom Orban often demonizes. Hungary's unions said hell no, opposition parties and students got behind them, and the protests have morphed into a broader backlash against Mr. Orban's crackdown on democracy and civil society. Footage of police beating an opposition politician has further inflamed the situation. Will Orban back down on an unpopular law or will he crack down on the streets, risking a more serious political crisis?

A new army in the Balkans – Last week, Kosovo's parliament voted to create a national army. The move provoked an angry response from neighboring Serbia, the country from which Kosovo gained independence in 1999 after a brutal war. Serbia says it's worried about the security of Serb minorities in predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo. NATO also opposes the move, given the potential for instability in the region. Kosovo says it should be entitled to an army like any other country, though under the UN-brokered terms of its independence, Kosovo's constitution doesn't allow it. The US government has broken with NATO on this, by firmly backing Kosovo's position. The move is symbolic for now — the parliament's plan would take ten years to realize — but as tensions throughout the region continue to simmer, we're keeping a watchful eye even on symbolic gestures.

What We're Ignoring

Mexico's ambitious oil goals — Mexico's new left-wing president, Andres Manuel López Obrador, wants to make the country self-sufficient in oil and fuels. He's proposed massive new funding for Pemex, Mexico's heavily-indebted state oil company, and wants to build a new $8 billion oil refinery in his home state of Tabasco. Mr. Lopez Obrador's plan for Mexico's once-vibrant oil industry is ambitious: he wants to boost Pemex's oil production by 50 percent over the next five years. But it looks like a long shot, as it would require reversing 14 years of steady decline in oil output due to mismanagement, high debt, and low oil prices.

Putin's bid to become Tsar of all the Rappers – The Russian president doesn't like rap music. Its glorification of "drugs, sex, and protest" poison the Russian language, culture, and nation, he says. His curmudgeonly objections aside, Putin also says it's impossible to outlaw the genre – which is hugely popular among younger Russians. Instead, he wants instead to "regulate" it. What that means isn't clear, but his comments come amid a growing clash between Russia's hip-hop scene and the government that's seen shows cancelled, rappers jailed, and Soviet poets pressed into service in an attempt to prove that rap is actually Russian. Putin generally plays a weak hand well, but taking on an entire musical genre seems like a losing battle. Does he really think he's bigger than hip hop?

Empowering minority-owned businesses in 2022

A woman of color smiling as she uses a tablet

One of the keys to accelerating financial inclusion and building a more equitable digital economy is to enable minority-owned businesses to scale. And one of the fastest ways to do that is through partnerships with a global network like Visa. At the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI), we’re committed to providing research and insights on important issues related to inclusive economic policy. Our reports cover topics like what women-owned businesses need to unlock growth and how to empower Black and Brown-owned banks. Read more of our latest stories here.

Does the EU really have a foreign policy?

For decades, European leaders have debated the question of whether Europe should have a common foreign policy that’s independent of the United States.

Germany, the UK, and countries situated closest to Russia have traditionally preferred to rely on membership in NATO and US military strength to safeguard European security at a cost affordable for them.

French leaders, by contrast, have argued that, with or without NATO, Europe needs an approach to foreign-policy questions that doesn’t depend on alignment, or even agreement, with Washington.

There are those within many EU countries who agree that Europe must speak with a single clear voice if the EU is to promote European values and protect European interests in a world of US, Chinese, and Russian power.

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The politics of US crime: Perception vs reality

A recent spate of violent crimes in New York City has made national headlines. Since Eric Adams was sworn in four weeks ago as mayor of America’s most populous city, violence on the streets — and the subways — has again become a major political focus. Things got even more heated this week, when two young cops were killed while responding to a domestic dispute in Harlem.

Crime is not only a dominant political issue in New York. It also resonates more broadly with American voters worried over increased lawlessness and unrest. Indeed, crime is already shaping up to be a wedge issue as Republicans vie to win control of the US Congress this November.

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Hard Numbers: South China Sea jet search, US economy surges, Cuban protesters charged, Africa gets vaxxed

FILE PHOTO of a F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Jan. 14, 2022.


100 million: The US Navy is scrambling to find a $100 million F-35 stealth fighter jet that crashed and sank soon after taking off on Monday from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. One expert described the Cold War-ish race to locate the remains — stocked with classified equipment — before the Chinese do as "basically The Hunt For Red October meets The Abyss."

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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a pipe at the Chelyabinsk pipe rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020.

Nord Stream 2 used as a bargaining chip with Russia. The US now says that if Russia invades Ukraine, it’ll block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to transfer even more natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. This is a big deal, considering that Germany – thirsty for more Russian gas – has long been pushing for the pipeline to start operating despite ongoing objections from Washington. The $11 billion energy project, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany, is seen as (a big) part of the reason why Berlin is reluctant to push back hard against the Kremlin over its troop buildup at the Ukrainian border. Still, German officials admit Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions if the Russians invade, suggesting that the Americans’ threat was likely coordinated with Berlin in advance. This comes amid ongoing diplomatic attempts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, with US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to meet at the White House on February 7.

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Putin Has a “Noose” Around Ukraine, Says Russia Analyst Alina Polyakova | GZERO World

What’s going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind? That’s the million-dollar question.

Ukraine and Russia analyst Alina Polyakova doesn’t think it’s anything good.

Russia's president, she says, has put a “noose” around Ukraine with a troop build-up along the border that could spell invasion in the near term. The US has led an effort to deescalate the situation through diplomacy.

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The AI Addiction Cycle | GZERO World

Ever wonder why everything seems to be a major crisis these days? For former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, it's because artificial intelligence has determined that's the only way to get your attention.

What's more, it's driving an addiction cycle among humans that will lead to enormous depression and dissatisfaction.

"Oh my God there's another message. Oh my God, there's another crisis. Oh my God, there's another outrage. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," he says. "I don't think humans, at least in modern society where [we’ve] evolved to be in an 'Oh my God' situation all day."

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Merkin' It With Angela Merkel | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

Angela Merkel is retired — but only from politics. Still, maybe she's not as good at other jobs as she was as German chancellor.


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The AI addiction cycle

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