What We're Watching &What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

DRC ELECTION DRAMA Opposition leader Martin Fayulu has, with the support of the local Catholic church and several Western governments, appealed to the country's Constitutional Court to nullify the official results of the 30 December election, which authorities say was won by Felix Tshisekedi, another opposition figure. The court could confirm the results, order a recount, or order new elections. Aside from the dangers of further political upheaval in a country long wracked by instability, global health experts are worried that the election uncertainty will complicate efforts to fight a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus.


Canada vs China – Relations between China and Canada took a turn for the worse yesterday after a Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death for attempting to smuggle drugs out of China. The verdict hastily handed down on Robert Schellenberg comes against the backdrop of Canada's arrest in December of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of Chinese technology giant Huawei at the request of the US. With Ms. Meng now out on bail awaiting an extradition hearing, the families of Mr. Schellenberg and two other Canadian citizens detained by China fear that these men could be become pawns in a broader diplomatic fight between China and the West. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no good options – any hint of clemency to Ms. Meng, who was arrested at the request of the US, risks infuriating Washington. But can he stand by as China executes one of his citizens?

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Questions about whether Donald Trump "worked for Russia" – The New York Times and Washington Post have recently published stories that say, respectively, that the FBI last year looked into whether the US President was doing Moscow's bidding, and that Mr. Trump had sought to conceal the US translator's notes from his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. In the days since, journalists have been asking Mr. Trump if he "worked for Russia." After initially skirting the question on FOX, he flatly denied the allegation to the White House press corps. We are ignoring this question, as well as Mr. Trump's answers, and waiting for the findings of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation.

Justin Trudeau's Afghan doppelgänger – Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a man of many talents. He explains quantum physics. He boxes. He dances to Bhangra music in India. He runs a country so nice it's almost worthy of parody. But wait, does he also sing in fluent Dari and Pashto on television in Afghanistan? We too were fooled for a second when we saw the lyrical stylings of Afghan wedding singer Salam Maftoon, who bears an uncanny (like, really really crazy) resemblance to Mr. Trudeau. Attention to Mr. Maftoon's Trudeau-likeness has evidently boosted his chances of winning a popular TV singing contest, Afghan Star, by "50 percent." As an increasingly embattled Trudeau heads into elections later this year, he'd presumably be grateful for anything Mr. Maftoon can do to return the favor. But we are ignoring this because there is already a life-sized Justin Trudeau cutout, for whatever reason, in our office so we don't need another doppelgänger to keep track of.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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