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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.

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.

Ten years ago this week, a powerful earthquake off the coast of eastern Japan triggered a tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulting in the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. A decade and dozens of decommissioned reactors later, nuclear energy still supplies about 10 percent of global electricity, but its future remains uncertain amid post-Fukushima safety concerns.

As more countries pledge to curb emissions to mitigate climate change, nuclear could serve as a clean(ish) and reliable source of energy. But investing more in nuclear comes with tradeoffs.

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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 czar 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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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week, life looking better every day in the United States, coronavirus land. But I thought I'd talk about, this week, all of this cancel culture that everyone's talking about right now. If you're on the wrong political side, your opponents are trying to shut you down and you take massive umbrage. I see this everywhere, and it's starting to annoy.

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"Apocalyptic" protests in Senegal: At least five people have been killed in clashes with police as protests over poverty, unemployment, and the jailing of a popular politician rock the West African nation of Senegal. Ousmane Sonko, who heads the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) and is considered the most viable challenger to current president Mackie Sall, was accused of rape in February and arrested last week. Sonko says the charges are a politically motivated attempt to remove him from politics before the 2024 presidential election. His supporters immediately hit the streets, voicing a range of grievances including joblessness and poverty. Though youth unemployment has fallen over the past decade, it still exceeds eight percent and close to two-thirds of the country's 16 million people are under the age of 25. As Sonko supporters pledge to continue protests this week, Senegal's head of conflict resolution says the country is "on the verge of apocalypse."

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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