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What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

What We're Watching

The stock market It's been a rough month on Wall Street, with US stocks on track for their worst December performance since 1931. Here's why it matters, politically: President Trump is right when he says he has presided over one of the strongest US economies in recent memory.


Even the most committed partisans can't really quibble with the numbers. And yet, the president's party just lost 40 seats in the House. Trump himself remains also fairly unpopular heading into the 2020 campaign season, with fewer than 43 percent of Americans approving of his job performance. What happens if the economy starts to slump?

The rule of law in Poland – Poland's right-wing president, Andrzej Duda, formally reinstated around a third of the country's supreme court judges who had been forced into early retirement after the ruling Law and Justice party passed a law lowering the mandatory retirement age. The move came hours ahead of a deadline to comply with an October order from Europe's high court to scrap the law, which was seen by critics as an attempt to wipe out judicial independence and cement the ruling party's control over the bench. It is an important reversal and suggests Poland's nationalist see a need to ease confrontation with the EU ahead of European parliamentary elections and national elections next year.

What We're Ignoring

Russian internet trolls – A pair of reports published by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Monday painted a grim picture of foreign trolls run amok on social media during the 2016 US presidential election, including evidence of a sustained campaign to discourage African American voters from showing up at the polls. Documenting misinformation is important. But it's only a first step in addressing the more fundamental challenge facing democracies that are committed to both free speech and an open internet: figuring out how to get voters of all political stripes to think twice before reading, passing along, and acting on the information trolls promote.

America's growing cheese stockpiles – US cheese reserves are hitting new records – with 1.4 billion pounds socked away in cold storage as of the last count. It's partly due to Americans consuming more fancy foreign fromage, but experts say Mexican and Chinese tariffs on US cheddar and American cheese are also to blame. Fortunately, the holidays are here, and quick back-of-the envelope calculation shows that the current surplus amounts to a mere 5 pounds of cheese for every man, woman, and child in the United States. I, for one, will be doing my best to make a dent. Come on, America: you've got this.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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A body blow for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Imran Khan suffered an embarrassing defeat this week when members of the National Assembly, the country's lower house, voted to give the opposition bloc a majority in the Senate. (In Pakistan, lower house legislators and provincial assemblies elect senators in a secret ballot.) The big drama of it all is that Khan's own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a lower house majority, which means that lawmakers supposedly loyal to his party voted in secret for opposition candidates. Khan's allies claim that PTI members were bribed to support the opposition, and the prime minister says he will ask for a lower house vote of confidence in his leadership. That vote will not be secret, but even if he survives, the political damage is done. Without a Senate majority, he has no chance of passing key reform plans, including constitutional amendments meant to centralize financial and administrative control in the federal government. Khan has, however, refused to resign.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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