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What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Billionaire kingmakers in US politics – The man who brought the world the venti caramel Frappuccino shook up US politics over the weekend, telling 60 Minutes that he's "seriously considering" running for president as a "centrist independent." Former Starbucks boss Howard Schultz, estimated to be worth $3 billion, certainly has the cash to mount a credible outsider challenge. But Democrats and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another independent-minded billionaire who has toyed with a presidential bid, warned the move could split opposition to Donald Trump, helping the incumbent president win another term. Trump himself questioned whether Schultz had "the guts" to enter the race. We're watching this closely, because a well-funded independent run would add an extra shot of crazy to the 2020 contest.

The concerns of America's intelligence chiefs – The leaders of America's major intelligence agencies presented their annual threat assessment to the Senate yesterday. The report highlighted the fracturing of America's global alliances and growing strategic alignment between China and Russia as two major threats. On other issues, like North Korea and Iran, the intelligence community and Trump administration are decidedly out of step. Trump has been at odds with the experts before, but this year he'll also be facing an emboldened Democratic majority in the House, making it harder to downplay the disconnect.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Theresa May's latest Brexit "victory" – Yesterday, the UK's embattled prime minister scored a pyrrhic victory with the defeat of a bill that would have forced her to delay Brexit unless a "no deal" scenario, in which ties with the EU are abruptly severed, is categorically ruled out. Parliament also passed an amendment calling on May to modify a section of the current deal that temporarily maintains the free flow of goods and people along the North Irish border, spurring hopes that there might actually be a Brexit agreement that can gain the support of Parliament. But here's the problem: the EU has made clear for months it isn't willing to budge on the issue. This "victory" smells more like a prelude to defeat.

Cambodia's record-breaking propaganda – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is taking a novel approach to exciting the country's youthful population about his aged, authoritarian government: calling in the Guinness Book of World Records. Since 2015, the strongman ruler and his 36-year-old son, Hun Many, have engineered a string of record-breaking stunts, including the world's biggest sticky rice cake (8,900 pounds), longest scarf (3,772 feet), our personal favorite, a 2,015 person Madison line dance, and most recently, in November, the world's longest dragon boat (286 feet). We're ignoring these obvious marketing ploys, and watching this video about a record-breaking cat that's longer than a baseball bat instead.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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10: Violent protests against new coronavirus restrictions have erupted in at least 10 regions in the Netherlands, which recently imposed the country's first nationwide curfew since World War Two. Protesters clashed with police and looted stores — and police say that a far-right anti-immigrant group has taken advantage of the discontent to exacerbate tensions.

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One result of the law enforcement crackdown on pro-Trump Capitol rioters following the events of January 6 is that many right-wing extremists have left public social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for encrypted apps like Telegram and Signal. But renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher isn't all that concerned. "The white supremacist stuff, it's like mold. They thrived in the light, actually." Now that these groups no longer have such public platforms, their recruiting power, Swisher argues, will be greatly diminished. Plus, she points out, they were already on those encrypted apps to begin with. Swisher's conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no doubt that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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