What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Another shutdown showdown — Unless the US Congress and President Trump reach a deal to fund the federal government by Friday, there will be another partial government shutdown. The issue, once again, is President Trump's request for $5.7 billion to begin building a wall along the US-Mexico border, which the Democrats refuse to grant. Late on Monday night, Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise "in principle" on about $1.3 billion in funding for new border barriers as well as no change to the number of detention spots for undocumented migrants funded by the budget. Democrats had wanted to reduce that number of "detention beds," while the GOP sought to increase it. Congressional leaders seem optimistic, but we are watching to see if this compromise will be acceptable to President Trump himself.

Polar invasion of Russia — Over the weekend more than 50 polar bears stormed a restricted military community on a Russian island in the Arctic, prowling through garbage dumps and apartment blocks in search of food. The local government has declared a state of emergency. Wildlife experts blame the crisis in part on global warming – as Arctic ice floes melt, the polar bears' vast traditional hunting grounds are shrinking, forcing them to look for food in human settlements. As we've written, the Russian government sees a lucrative opportunity to profit from new shipping lanes as the polar ice recedes – but if the polar bears have anything to say about it, things could get ugly fast.


WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Rome's bid to cook NATO's books — Italy's populist-led government is calling on NATO to change how it calculates members' defense spending. Rome contends that the alliance's requirement that 2 percent of GDP be spent toward defense include non-military investments, like cyber and energy infrastructure. In 2018, Italy spent 1.15 percent of GDP on defense, putting it in 22nd place out of the alliance's 29 members in terms of expenditure. We're ignoring this because it seems like the last-ditch effort of a cash-strapped government, and NATO's not going to buy it.

Middle Eastern peace in Middle Eastern Europe – Coinciding with the 40thanniversary of the Iranian revolution this week, Poland is co-hosting an international conference ostensibly aimed at discussing stability in the Middle East but which has a distinctly anti-Iranian bent. US Vice President Mike Pence and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are set to attend, but most EU foreign ministers are skipping the occasion, as Brussels and Washington still disagree over the wisdom of the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal last year. We don't expect any groundbreaking announcements to come out of this one, though Poland's right-wing government likely hopes that hosting the event will help it to woo the Trump administration into building a US base – possibly called "Fort Trump" – on Polish soil.

An aerial view of a forest of trees

From accelerating our net zero timeline to creating digital tools for more sustainable consumer choice, Mastercard is working to build a more sustainable and inclusive digital economy. Watch and learn how we’re uniting in climate action with our network of banking customers, merchants and consumers – and helping to reforest the planet through the Priceless Planet Coalition.

A year of Biden

Joe Biden’s first year as US president included two major historic accomplishments and a series of (often bitter) disappointments that has his party headed toward likely defeat in November’s midterm elections. Biden’s own political future is increasingly uncertain.

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Hard Numbers: Angry Spanish farmers, South Korea foots Iran’s UN bill, China tests Taiwanese air defense, Turkish journalist jailed

4.7 billion: Spanish farmers protested on Sunday in Madrid against the leftwing coalition government's agricultural and environmental policies, which they claim are depopulating rural areas. No way, says the government, which has set aside $4.7 billion to stop the rural exodus.

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Two children and a robot. We have to control AI before it controls us, warns former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Listen: Tech companies set the rules for the digital world through algorithms powered by artificial intelligence. But does Big Tech really understand AI? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt tells Ian Bremmer that we need to control AI before it controls us.

What's troubling about AI, he says, is that it’s still very new, and AI is learning by doing. Schmidt, co-author of “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” worries that AI exacerbates problems like anxiety, driving a human addiction cycle that leads to depression.

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.

COVID has accelerated our embrace of the digital world. The thing is, we don't always know who’s running it.

Instead of governments, Ian Bremmer says, so far a handful of Big Tech companies are writing the rules of digital space — through computer algorithms powered by artificial intelligence.

The problem is that tech companies have set something in motion they don't fully understand, nor control.

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If omicron makes cases explode in China, the country's leaders will have to choose between weathering short-term or long-term pain.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, predicts that sticking to the zero-COVID approach at all costs will hurt the Chinese and global economy. In his view, learning to live with the virus is the way to go.

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The Graphic Truth: How do US presidents do in their first year?

Joe Biden's approval rating has taken a big hit during his first year as US president. Biden is now just slightly more popular than his predecessor Donald Trump at the same point in his presidency. While Biden has made a series of policy and political blunders that might be reflected in polling, this is also a sign of the times: US politics are now so polarized that presidential approval has a low ceiling. We compare the approval ratings of the last five US presidents in their first year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2022.

Iran and Russia heart each other. The presidents of Iran and Russia have little in common personally, but they share many geopolitical interests, including in Afghanistan and Syria. They also have a common resolve in countering "the West.” These issues are all on the agenda as Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi held their first in-person meeting in Moscow. Raisi is a hardline cleric who leads a theocracy with nuclear ambitions. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is a wily autocrat who enjoys provoking America and Europe, and has ambitions to return to the glory days of the territorially expansive Soviet Union — as seen with the Kremlin's recent provocations on the Ukrainian border. With the Iran nuclear talks on life support and Joe Biden already bracing for Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Tehran and Moscow now have even more reasons to scheme and cooperate. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have increasingly been cooperating on energy and security issues (Iran might be buying Russian military technology) as their respective relations with the West deteriorate.

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A year of Biden

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Can we control AI before it controls us?

GZERO World Clips

Should China learn to live with COVID?

GZERO World Clips

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