What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE ARE WATCHING

Jair Bolsonaro, Smut Lord – This is NSFW unless your W is covering global affairs. Last Thursday, the Brazil's president asked, in a tweet, "what is a golden shower?" This after he'd posted video in which a half-naked man dances lewdly atop a bus stop in Rio de Janeiro and then allows another man to urinate on him. Bolsonaro – a social ultraconservative posted the vid, it seems, as evidence of his country's moral degeneration, a plague he blames on the Brazilian left. He then recorded a Facebook Live video in which he criticized (and showed) sex education textbooks that feature illustrations of genitalia. We're watching to see if Bolsonaro's polarizing passion for culture wars gets in the way of the economic reform and anti-corruption promises which were major reasons many people voted for him.

Impeachment Talk – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in Washington, said that impeaching President Trump would be too divisive and that "he's just not worth it." Other Democrats, especially those running, or considering running, for president will now have to respond. This response will be among the most strategically important political decisions they will make this year. Impeachment is an issue that can, in principle, fire up the Democratic base, but it risks alienating moderates while handing Trump an issue that, in turn, inflames his own most fervent supporters.

WHAT WE ARE IGNORING

Russian police arresting balloons – Over the weekend, thousands of Russians protested new laws that tighten state control over the internet. The demonstrations, among Russia's largest in recent years, illustrate the risks that the government faces as it tries to curtail internet freedoms that Russians have become accustomed to. Though authorities permitted the demonstrations, police in Moscow arrested half a dozen activists for flying "unmanned aerial devices" without a license. The devices in question? Small blue helium balloons. We're ignoring this flagrant war on joy, but we're also heading over to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew our balloon flying licenses. Back in a few hours…

Assurances that killer robots won't kill us – In response to some bad press that the US army is working on "AI-powered killing machines" the Pentagon has updated a request for companies that can help it build a new gun system that can "acquire, identify, and engage targets at least three times faster than the current manual process." Everyone can calm down, according to the Pentagon: the not-at-all-sinisterly named Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) will abide by US Department of Defense Directive 3000.09, which requires human input into any decision to kill. We're ignoring this fracas, because "lethality" is an overused military buzzword [KAK1] because this totally doesn't sound like the beginning of a bad made-for-cable movie or anything.

We believe in access for everyone.

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Visa: We believe in access for everyone. Image of a small, diverse group of people, smiling

Gaps in economic opportunities have made it hard for all individuals to take part in the global payments ecosystem. To address those gaps, society needs public policies to empower citizens, small businesses, and economies. That’s why, in 2021, the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI) started conducting research and publishing reports about fostering digital equity and inclusion, unlocking growth through trade, and imagining an open future for payments. In 2022, we hope you’ll visit the VEEI for insights and data on the future of inclusive economic policies. See our newest stories here.

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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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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Namibian citizen Phillip Luhl holds one of his twin daughters as he speaks to his Mexican husband Guillermo Delgado via Zoom meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 13, 2021

2: Namibia’s High Court ruled against two gay couples seeking legal recognition of their marriages. The judge said she agreed with the couples, who are seeking residency or work authorizations for foreign-born spouses, but is bound by a Supreme Court ruling that deems same-sex relationships illegitimate.

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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

China vs COVID in 2022

GZERO World Clips

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Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal